While social media is a powerful tool that connects people, it comes with the risk of online abuse. Cyberbullying takes place when one individual intimidates or harasses another on digital platforms or through an electronic device, such as a cellphone or computer. For example, one person posts offensive images or comments of another person on social media that negatively impacts that person’s dignity. Another example is when someone threatens another person with violence over text messages.
Cyberbullying amongst children and teenagers has become a severe problem and can have negative consequences on a child’s mental and emotional well-being. Digify Africa decided to bring together key stakeholders from the government, the private sector, NGOs, and educators in a virtual room to make recommendations about the actions we can all take to help South Africa curb cyberbullying and equally encourage the safe use of new digital technologies that are being introduced.
How digital transformation changes the way we learn and communicate
Technology enables institutions like schools to harness the power of digital technology to automate processes.
Digital transformation in the education sector helps to improve the learning experience for students, teachers, and other people involved in the process. Such changes focus on improving engagement and accessibility through interactive and customizable learning. As a result, online education has become more comprehensive and inclusive.
At Digify Africa’s recent Digital Literacy Forum, The Deputy Director for Curriculum and E-learning at the Department of Basic Education, Dr. Rannosi Francis Motene, implored all attendees and stakeholders to suggest strategies to help teachers adapt their teaching methods so that the needs and expectations of today’s digital natives are being progressively accommodated.
Ensuring responsible and safe use of digital platforms
In partnership with Meta, Digify Africa has developed programs to equip youth to use the internet safely and productively. Ilizwe Lam’s internet safety program empowers and informs 13 to 18 years olds with the tools to thrive while using the internet. As a company that works in the area of social media and digital marketing, Digify Africa knows and understands the delicate balance between taking advantage of opportunities provided by the internet and avoiding threats online. Digify Africa has recently adapted their online safety education, traditionally delivered in-person through Ilizwe Lam, into an innovative WhatsApp learning bot called Kitso (Knowledge) that delivers basic internet safety training to teachers and parents. Through this new delivery mechanism, Digify Africa aims to make internet safety skills and tools more accessible.
The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) is an organization that specializes in Internet and communications policy and the administration and support of non-profit organizations and associations. They make sure that Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) are empowered with digital literacy to communicate with their customers and facilitate the process so their customers can access information on digital literacy. They also played an essential role during the pandemic working alongside the Department of Basic Education through a process called zero-rating, which made over a thousand basic education websites free to access for learners in South Africa, thus lessening the burden of internet access and data.
Challenges in bridging the skills gap
One of the challenges in promoting digital literacy is making the information and training accessible; this is why Digify Africa has chosen one of South Africa’s most popular messaging platforms, WhatsApp as a means to distribute learning content about Internet safety to parents and teachers.
Another challenge is bringing the gap between young teachers who are comfortable with digital technologies and more experienced, older teachers who may have more limited digital skills. In addition to this, new technologies are being introduced at a fast pace, so much so that stakeholders like Digify Africa, the Department of Basic Education, and ISAP are struggling to create solutions at a rate of development that mirrors the world outside the classroom effectively.
Highlighting the responsibility and digital tools as solutions\
As we work collectively to promote safer internet use, we need to highlight children’s responsible use of these online platforms, so they can learn the tools to manage their behavior and enjoy positive online experiences. Parents also need to take a lead role in being proactive and know exactly when and how their children are using their devices by monitoring screen time and the websites their children have access to. Developing good judgment and critical thinking will help children stay safe because they will learn to question the information they see and engage with online.
Schools must create and nurture strong, collaborative partnerships with parents regarding cyber safety strategies so that all parties can take a leadership position around cyber safety and create safer online environments for our children.
How do we then curb cyberbullying in South Africa? The secret lies in forming powerful partnerships between governments, schools, educators, and parents and working together to implement solutions that will address the challenges we face with digital technology.
Are you interested in teaching your children how to protect themselves online with Kitso?
Topics like online privacy, misinformation, and fact-checking are just a few of the skills that the Kitso WhatsApp learning bot trains parents and teachers. This makes parents and teachers more confident about teaching our children proper online safety.
Say hi to Kitso, and take charge of your online presence today!
Packed with interactive quizzes, engaging graphics, and audio content, Kitso will captivate you throughout your journey, as you learn:
- Introduction To Your Online Presence
- Protecting Your Privacy
- Navigating False Information
- Building Your Online Community
- Digital Tools For The Classroom
- Using Digital Tools To Make A Difference
Just say hi to Kitso, our free WhatsApp learning bot that will aid you with valuable Internet safety skills for your future!