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Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Pinky Kekana, has called on parents to reinforce the message of zero tolerance towards bullying in their homes.

“Let’s not assume that our children are completely innocent always. Make sure they know how cyber bullying feels by instilling empathy and empowering them to make good choices. You will reduce the likelihood that they will engage in this damaging behaviour,” the Deputy Minister said.

Addressing a webinar on the impact of cyberbullying amongst the youth on Friday, she advised parents to teach children to be responsible digitals citizens by not posting content that could have a negative consequence for others.

“There is a rule that we should teach our children, so that they become responsible digital citizens: If they can’t say it to someone’s face, don’t post it,” Kekana said.

This webinar takes place after recent incidents of bullying at Mbilwi Secondary School in Thohoyandou, Limpopo; Dinwiddie High School in Germiston, Gauteng and Mathole High School in KwaZulu-Natal.

In 2015, the Film and Publication board did a research study at University of South Africa to look at what happens to children when they watch movies or play games that are full of violence.

“Children from across South Africa were surveyed and the outcome was that our children were becoming immune to violence across all the age groups from 10-15 year olds. A 100% of the children interviewed said they have watched a film or played a game that has some violence in it,” the Deputy Minister said.

As at April 2018, the last statistic data revealed that South Africa was at 88% and the fourth in the world of being aware of cyber bullying behind Chile, Italy and Sweden.

“This means that South Africans have a good understanding of cyber bullying, which is defined as a form of harassment in digital communications mediums, such as text messages, internet forums, chatrooms and social media

“As opposed to real life bullying, online bullying takes advantage of the anonymity of the internet, as well as the possibility to quickly spread rumours, gossip or misinformation to large groups of people,” Kekana said.

She said cyber bullying can affect the victim their entire lives, as it has psychological effects.

According to the South African College of Applied Psychology, more than 60% of children and adolescents surveyed in South Africa agreed that cyber bullying is worse than bullying face-to-face.

“The sad reality is that at least one in four kids has been bullied more than once, with 43% of kids having fallen prey of cyber bullying. Seventy percent of cyber bullying activities are happening on Facebook.

“In the last quarter of 2020, Facebook removed 22.1 million pieces of content with hate speech. This is more than double the 9.6 million they removed in the first quarter of 2020,” the Deputy Minister said.

The social network defines hate speech as a direct attack based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disease, social status or disability.

Dealing with GBV

In South Africa, citizens continue to battle with high levels of GBV .

“[In 2020], sexual offences increased by 1.7%, which translates to 53 295 reported cases. This is the type of environment that many of our children are growing up in, especially children in communities where poverty and unemployment place added pressure on the adults that are meant to be caring for our children.

“It is safe to say, we are a nation subsumed by violence and hate, and this is why I plead with adults to do better, be intentional in our goals to deal with [things],” Kekana said.

Department of Justice Senior State Law Advisor, Sarel Robbertse, highlighted the Films and Publications Amendment Act, 2019, and the Cyber Crimes Bill as two pieces of legislation that address cyber bullying.

“The Films and Publications Amendment Act, 2019, provides that a person may lodge a complaint at the Film and Publications Board regarding offensive content. The board may investigate the matter and if the content is found to be offensive, a takedown notice may be issued,” Robbertse said.

In addition, the Electronic Communications Service Provider must furnish information to identify the perpetrator. This information can be used to institute criminal proceedings.

The Films and Publications Amendment Act also prohibits communications with sexual content without permission, depicting sexual violence and violence against children that incite imminent violence or advocate hatred that is based on identifiable group characteristics, and that constitutes to cause harm.

“The Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill aims to rationalise legislation dealing with cybercrimes. Certain provisions in the bill deal with cybercrimes by criminalising the disclosure of data messages without consent, and incite damage to property or violence; threaten another with violence or damage to property, and are of an intimate nature,” Robbertse said.


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