WATCH LIVE | How are marketers and brands keeping our children safe in cyberspace?
Join the next instalment of the Sunday Times GenNext online webinar series in partnership with Yellowwood and Gautrain on May 13
We’re living at a time with so many advantages over previous generations: greater access to effective health care, vaccinations against disease, more accessible education, and broader transport and trade networks.
Technology and the internet, however, have proved to be a double-edged sword, where we unwittingly also expose ourselves to new threats. How do we protect our young people from cyber harm? And how do brands and marketers responsibly carve a safe space for reaching younger generations in a digital world, without compromising their safety and security?
Covid-19 and lockdown have increased the amount of time young people are spending on smartphones and other mobile devices. For a long period, they were starved of company without the daily prospect of school to look forward to, and for parents now working from home and who can’t afford to keep their children entertained throughout the day, access to the internet has been a lifesaver.
The online rush has also proved an enticing opportunity for marketers to profile and plug into younger online audiences at the speed of light, reaching children with brand messaging and advertising campaigns wherever their digital consumer trail has dropped its crumbs.
According to Statista, 56.3% of the SA population are internet users, with that number projected to rise to 62.3% by 2025. Icasa’s 2020 report indicates that smartphone penetration reached 91.2% in 2019. This means young people in SA are spending more time online, increasing potential exposure to online perils.
One of the most prominent is cyberbullying, where young people are victimised online, with social media platforms being the biggest culprits. The SA College of Applied Psychology website shares that SA has the fourth-highest incidence of cyberbullying in the world. Teens who are bullied are nine times more likely to commit suicide.
There’s the risk of grooming by cyber predators who form online friendships and relationships with naive and unsuspecting young people. Children and young people may be more inclined to share their personal information online, without realising it and may also open them up to abuse or financial loss.
Children often believe they are operating in a safe space, particularly if their friends are active on certain social media and gaming platforms. It also creates a false sense of security for parents, believing their children are safe in numbers. Phishing and other scams rely on the naiveté of those who trust strangers simply because a site looks bona fide and authentic, or an e-mail has a professional look and feel.
So how do we protect young people?
Join the next instalment of the Sunday Times GenNext online webinar series in partnership with Yellowwood and Gautrain on the new reality, where digital marketing dominates most strategies, and marketers need to engage with the youth online, while promoting safe and positive online behaviour. What are the responsibilities of marketers and brands in keeping our children safe in cyberspace?