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Social media platforms need to take a stand against cyberbullying

The International Stand Up to Bullying Day serves as an opportunity to take stock of cyber-bullying and how it’s impacting your children. Sadly, social media platforms aren’t doing enough.

bullying cyberbullying

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The first few weeks of school in South Africa has been marked by a number of high profile cases which have involved violent incidents at schools.

Today, Friday 18 February, marks International Stand Up to Bullying Day, where we are encouraged to take a stand against bullying in all its forms.

There’s no doubt that the world our children need to traverse is infinitely more complex than what we had to deal with when in school.

Today’s children have to deal with all the traditional social complexities of school life in addition to the constant dangers posed by near-unlimited access to the internet.

Social media and cyberbullying

Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge about the dangers of social media and cyberbullying is a cause for great concern. Our schools are becoming combat zones as we read daily reports of bullying and violent attacks.

According to an IPSOS report, South Africa currently has the highest prevalence of cyberbullying, with 54% of parents replying that they were aware of a child in their community who had been a victim of cyberbullying.

The increase in cyber-attacks on individuals have even seen local insurer 1st For Women introduce a cyber insurance solution. The policy specifically covers costs related to “removal and suppression of harmful content arising out of cyberbullying”.

“While many social media platforms are taking their policies seriously when it comes to reducing cyberbullying, children remain at risk. This month, the controversial platform TikTok launched family safety mode in a bid to stop concerns about harmful material like the mind-boggling skull breaker challenge which has already claimed a life, yet more still needs to be done.”

Casey Rosseau from 1st for Women Insurance.

Cyber insurance may not be the answer we’re all were hoping, but it certainly confirms what anyone who spends any amount of time already knew. Cybercrime, harassment and bullying is not going away anytime soon.

Dangers of social media

Parents are beginning to realise that it’s probably not good enough to expect social media sites to self-police the spaces their children are spending their time in.

Parents who wouldn’t allow their children to physically leave home and spend time with strangers without any idea where they are and what they’re doing probably shouldn’t be allowing their children to do the digital equivalent.

It is critical that parents take an interest in what platforms their children are using what the risks could be. Cyberbully expert and founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety NPC, Rianette Leibowitz, explains:

“It is almost impossible to be clued up on all the various platforms our children are exploring, and we do rely on the mainstream media to help stay informed, but as parents you can also join groups on social media, attend seminars and also see what educational sessions your children’s schools might be offering. You need to try and stay as informed as possible”.

Education is key

TikTok and the way it has allowed dangerous behaviour like the well-reported skull-crasher challenge was an early warning of why parents need to be vigilant about their children’s online time.

The most crucial intervention parents can make, however, is the same online as it is for offline behaviour. Children need to educated about the dangers of cyberbullying, acceptable online behaviour and cybersecurity.

With sufficient information, children can be trusted to make better decisions about their online behaviour and how they react to cyberbullying.