With 11-15 November marking Anti-Bullying Week, the spotlight is being shone on cyberbullying in South Africa. In a recent report based on research in 28 countries by Ipsos Global, South Africa showed the highest prevalence of cyberbullying. According to an expert on digital life skills and online safety, parents need to take ownership of their children’s online safety and activity.
Founder of the MySociaLife ‘Digital Life Skills’ Program, Dean McCoubrey explained that cyberbullying entails far more than most parents assume.
“Cyberbullying is a broad definition, not just meaning that someone says harmful things to you online,” said McCoubrey.
“It could also be someone sharing your personal private information to make you feel embarrassed or humiliated, somebody faking your profile and pretending to be you, somebody trading a compromising image of you – with or without your clothes on – or the sharing of videos…
We need parents to understand that these devices are complex because they work in multimedia… it’s not just somebody that said ‘hey you suck,’ that’s not it. It’s much more embarrassing because it’s much more visual and working into networks of individuals of the same age.”
McCoubrey explained that despite what many here in South Africa may think about data costs and the economy, South Africa has an enormous amount of smart devices in use – which only contributes to the growth of the problem of cyberbullying. This proliferation contributing to growing cyberbullying is exacerbated by the lack of parental influence, control and guidance in the digital sphere.
“We have the largest proliferation of smart devices in Sub-Saharan Africa, so that means we’re exploding in terms of smart devices…We’ve got lots of people with access to smart devices, data costs are coming down, bandwidth is getting quicker and now people are starting to access these from an early age. The problem is that parents are extremely busy and now you have kids on devices without guidelines or education from parents or schools,” said McCoubrey.
“Nobody’s taught them a value system to operate with online.”
He indicated that parents need to take ownership of the situation and devices and protect their children online. McCoubrey urges parents to realise that as savvy as children seem, they are not able to fully comprehend the potential repercussions of what they do.
“Your kids may look adept online, but they lack the maturity [psychologically] to be able to handle it.”