More than half of SA's children have been cyberbullied, survey finds

A survey of 200 South African parents found that 54% of their children had accessed inappropriate content via digital platforms, and 51.5% had been cyberbullied

10 March 2021 - 06:00
By belinda pheto AND Belinda Pheto
A recent survey has found that cyberbullying is rife among children in South Africa.
Image: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART A recent survey has found that cyberbullying is rife among children in South Africa.

Cyberbullying is rife among South African children.

This is according to a survey conducted in February by a digital identity, privacy and social media protection company, Digimune. The company surveyed 200 parents to gauge their views and concerns around children and digital threats.

The results of the survey revealed that 51.5% of the children whose parents who took part in the survey had been cyberbullied. The survey also found that 54% of children have accessed inappropriate content via digital platforms.

“More than one out of every two children in the respondents’ communities have been victims of cyberbullying or have accessed adult or otherwise inappropriate content online. Further, more than two out of five children have shared personal information online, and more than three out of 10 have been cyberstalked or been a victim of online shaming or revenge porn,” the survey found.

The company also noted it is likely the data is an underrepresentation, due to a combination of children’s reluctance to tell their parents about an attack and the sophistication of cybercrime today.

Far from ad hoc, brute force attacks using rudimentary technology and techniques, cyber criminals harness the latest tech, bide their time and are strategic about their activities.

“The thefts of personal information or hacking into social media platforms are good examples of this. Because criminals go on to sell this information on the dark web, it is in their interest for you, or your child, to be oblivious to the theft of information or the hack,” reads the report.

The results revealed that 35% of children in the respondents’ communities have been a victim of cyberstalking, while 36.5% of children have fallen victim to online shaming and 43.5% of children willingly share their personal information on online platforms.

While on the other hand, most parents said the top five digital concerns for their children are shaming or revenge porn, cyberbullying, accessing adult or otherwise inappropriate content, grooming and identity theft.

The survey found the vast majority of children have access to a wide variety of online devices — either shared or their own device — from a young age.

“By the age of 10, 30.5% of children have their own smartphone and 41.5% have access to a shared smartphone. But there is also a proportion of parents who indicated in the survey that their child will never have any access to specific devices.

 “Today, being online and having access to a variety of digital tools and platforms are a must-have, not a nice-to-have. From learning to creating, socialising and exercising, our online life is as important as our analogue life. Unfortunately, this has been weaponised by criminals wanting to profit from and wreak havoc in our, and our children’s, lives,” said Simon Campbell-Young, co-founder and VP of global sales at Digimune.

Campbell-Young said parents need to protect themselves and their families by harnessing technology as an important early warning system and an effective line of defence.