AfriForum launches cyberbullying guide in collaboration with Solidarity Helping Hand, SECI, the University of Johannesburg and Unisa

The civil rights organisation AfriForum’s AfriForum’s anti-bullying campaign division and Private Prosecution Unit launched a cyberbullying guide on 29 May – the first day of National Child Protection Week. The guide raises awareness about the dangers of technology, social media, sexting, and child pornography.

This guide aims to empower parents, teachers and learners to be #ScreenSmart. The guide was compiled in collaboration with Solidarity Helping Hand, the South African Police Service’s Serial and Electronic Investigation (SECI), the University of Johannesburg and Unisa.

South Africa ranks fourth highest in the world when it comes to cyberbullying. According to market research by the company Ipsos, in 2018, more than half (54%) of South African parents said their children, or children in their community, were victims of cyberbullying. However, this statistic could be much higher since parents do not always know if their child is being bullied. Social media causes the bully to go home with the victim, making bullying constant.

“Bullying that once only took place on the school grounds, or the bus, has now spread to social media – cyberbullying. The guide discusses the seriousness of cyberbullying, child pornography and sexting. It informs parents and teachers about the dangers of the internet and social media platforms. Parents and teachers are taught how to be proactive when learners are victims of cyberbullying, how to deal with and prevent it,” says Leandie Bräsler, AfriForum’s Manager for Youth Leadership.

“The dangers of social media must be discussed with children, seeing as more and more learners are affected by it. Learners do not necessarily know what dangers and trauma this can entail, especially when sharing nude photos. We want to help learners better understand social media and how to report bullying behaviour. This guide contains a table with various smartphone apps popular among learners and what dangers each app poses. We encourage parents to familiarise themselves with these apps and how they work so that they can better protect their child,” says Captain Veronica Banks of the SAPS’s Gauteng Electronic Crime Unit (ECU).

“Experience shows that the President, the Minister of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority, and the courts only pay lip service to gender-based violence and sexual offences against minors. Educators are confronted daily with a variety of diverse incidents that necessitate the application of the law in schools. Cyberbullying is the most common and probably the most difficult to deal with. The only effective way to respond to this is to ensure that the law is predictable to act as a deterrent. The guide focuses on the Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020 and the Films and Publications Act 65 of 1996,” says Adv Phyllis Vorster, Prosecutor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.

“A stable, trusting relationship between child and parent is a prerequisite for having uncomfortable conversations about social media and other topics. Therefore, as a parent, you must consistently work hard on your relationship with your child by spending quality time with them. This guide teaches parents and teachers how to handle situations where their child must deal with cyberbullying, child pornography and sexting,” says Yolandi Singleton, Head of Solidarity Helping Hand’s Ons Sentrum.

“We are fast becoming the cyber generation. The aim of raising awareness of cyber security is to inform all users – parents, learners, and educators – about it. We believe this guide will make the public more aware of cyber security. Learners can be digitally bullied anywhere. This can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and often the parents do not know that their child is bullied,” says Prof. Elmarie Kritzinger from Unisa.

“Parents, grandparents, teachers, and everyone in any position of authority must help convey the message. If you participate in cyberbullying, you can have a criminal record for the rest of your life,” says Prof. Basie von Solms from the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Cyber Security.

  • The guide will be available on AfriForum’s website from 2 June.

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