Are you smarter than a 12-year-old? Nope‚ says digital researcher

26 September 2017 - 09:52 By Farren Collins
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/iStockphoto

South African social media users are particularly at risk of being hacked as a result of poor digital literacy.

In an exclusive interview with TimesLIVE‚ Facebook safety policy manager for Africa‚ Julie de Bailliencourt‚ said that raising awareness around how to protect user accounts was a particular concern for the company in South Africa.

De Bailliencourt was in the country for a series of seminars to engage with local NGOs and other stakeholders on the issue of online safety. Her visit came in a week when popular radio host and author‚ Redi Tlhabi‚ had her personal Twitter account hacked while she was in New York to facilitate a series of United Nations conversations.

De Bailliencourt said the social media company‚ which has over two billion users worldwide and over 16 million active monthly users in SA‚ could only do so much to protect users from being hacked but that education was important for being safe online.

“For hacking‚ we’re trying to raise awareness on not sharing your password with your friends or partner‚” said de Bailliencourt.

“Because we can put the best safety mechanisms in place but if you’re going to share your password‚ then it undoes a lot of the good practices.

“There’s also a huge focus on education‚ so digital literacy is important.”

Joanne Phyfer‚ a researcher at the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention‚ said that in a recent study the organisation had found some alarming stats when it came to South Africans’ online use‚ especially among children.

“A lot of kids are meeting strangers on the internet‚” said Phyfer‚ who took part in the Facebook talks.

“Almost half of kids had met someone they don’t know‚ and almost half of those had actually gone and met the person offline‚” said Phyfer. “When we compared parents and children we found that parents’ level of skill was the same as a 12- to 14-year-old child. So for a parent to try and manage their children’s internet use can be quite difficult because once the child gets beyond the age of 14‚ then the child has progressed beyond the parent’s skill.”

In addition‚ said Phyfer‚ South African adults were not good internet role models.

“What often shocks me is that adults can be very critical of children online and then they behave in far worse ways on the internet‚” she said.

De Bailliencourt said that engaging parents was important to ensure that they did not feel intimidated by the technology‚ “and that they feel like they can talk with their kids about their interactions online”.

Facebook plans to increase its global online content reviewers‚ who help develop rules around suitable online content for users to post‚ from 4‚400 to 7‚400.