Think before you click: Tips to keep your kids safe online

Children who spend time online, particularly on social media, should ignore or block cyberbullies instead of responding.
Children who spend time online, particularly on social media, should ignore or block cyberbullies instead of responding.
Image: 123RF/dolgachov

Your selfie might not be your bestie, so always think before you share.

That was the critical lesson repeated by social media experts examining child safety online at a round-table discussion in Johannesburg hosted by Google and other stakeholders ahead of National Child Protection Week.

Just because something is trending, funny or controversial does not mean it should be shared, the gathering heard on Tuesday.

Google Africa's head of governmental affairs and public policy, Fortune Sibanda, said it was important to continuously mitigate the risks that children are exposed to when using the internet, particularly social media.

"We cannot ignore … that children are online with us. We must then build the necessary checks and balances. Social media on its own is not harmful; what human beings put on it can be harmful though," said Sibanda.

"It’s important to think before you post. When you post online you are posting to the world. That's what we want our young ones to grasp."

Google Africa, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and other stakeholders have devised a digital literacy programme called Web Rangers, which is designed to let young people gain critical skills and knowledge about online safety. The programme encourages young digital citizens to use the internet responsibly.

MMA's initiative, called Hashplay, is a website designed to help children make informed decisions online to protect themselves - such as keeping one's full name, address, cellphone number or school name off social media networks.

"Think before you click, share, retweet or like. Be careful who you trust. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Remain true to yourself and don't allow your standards to be altered by other's rude behaviour online," advises the Hashplay website.

"Your selfie might not be your bestie: posting evidence of your illegal behaviour online is like shooting yourself in the foot."

Posting anything online was like holding up a billboard, said MMA director William Bird. He said when a politician or influential public figure made a direct threat to someone, it encouraged others to engage in cyberbullying and trolling.

Delegates at the round-table event discussed incorporating social media safety guidelines into school codes of conduct.

"People think they can do whatever they want in these spaces. They spread awful things - sometimes unintentionally, but still harmful," said Bird.

"A number of real-life issues present themselves online - like racism, sexism, misogyny and ... abusive material. That's why we work with schools in Gauteng, Free State and the Western Cape to try and teach them about safety online."

MMA also advises young people to ignore, block and report any form of bullying or content that makes them uncomfortable.

"Don't respond to the bully. If they don't get a response, they may get bored and go away. Don't retaliate - bullies must not turn you into a bully. Block them. Tell someone and keep the evidence, in case you need to report them to authorities," advises the organisation in their online safety guidelines.


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