How do young South Africans deal with online risks?

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Member since February 5, 2013
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Four in five children in South Africa have access to a mobile phone, and almost half of them use mobile phones to access the internet. However, the opportunities presented by this access are often over-shadowed by the possibility for harm and online violence, as well as offline danger that result from online engagement.

According to a study released last week Connected Dot Com: Young People’s Navigation of Online Risks undertaken by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) with support from UNICEF, one in five children have experienced some form of cyberbullying or other violence, or harm, online and one in ten young people have met someone offline they first met online.

The study was conducted as part of a broader study on school violence in South Africa in 2012. Out of the 121 schools that participated in the school violence study, 93 took part in Connected Dot Com: Young People’s Navigation of Online Risks. Two focus groups were held at most of the schools and in the end a total of 1680 learners participated in the study. The selection of schools was random, and as a result schools across all socio-economic strata are represented.

“The study is the first of its kind in South Africa,” says Mr Patrick Burton, Executive Director of the CJCP. “It explores how children deal with the dangers they encounter online, and the strategies that they develop to mitigate these risks, rather than just focusing on the dangers themselves.”

As mobile – and mobile internet – penetration increases, attention is being focused on the vulnerability of children to abuse and exploitation in the online sphere. Children are often unaware of who they can turn to for help. Their parents and teachers, however, are unfamiliar with the technologies at children’s disposal and often find themselves in no position to offer advice, guidance or help.

“We hope that this study will be another step towards a better understanding to how we can better equip and protect our children against the risks and dangers that exist online,” says Ms Aida Girma, UNICEF South Africa country representative. “The findings show there are a number of risks and harms online, but also that our children are more resilient than we think. With the right information at their disposal they are able to make informed and mature decisions regarding their safety and responsibility as digital citizens.”

Download the full study here.

Originally published on the UNICEF South Africa website:

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