Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), together with Google SA, the Film and Publications Board (FPB) and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, will launch Web Rangers. The initiative will encourage young people to drive safer Internet behaviours, and come up with initiatives and ideas to help their peers to practise safer Internet use.
South African children will, for the first time, follow in the footsteps of countries such as Israel, Philippines, New Zealand and India in launching Web Rangers, a Google campaign where children champion good digital citizenship and online safety.
About 200 local children, aged 14 to 17, will encourage other children to think of practical and creative ways to help address issues of access and challenges faced by young people online.
"South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world," says William Bird, director at MMA. "The digital divide is another critical layer of inequality that, left unchallenged, will deepen inequality in new ways that will set our country's democracy and development back even further."He points out that overcoming the digital divide has a number of elements, the most critical of which is the provision of fast, cheap quality access to the Internet for all, and with that, the development of digital literacy and digital citizenship skills.
Web Rangers aims to achieve this through the participation of children who will champion the right to access the Internet and online safety in tandem, says Bird.
The Web Rangers launch will reveal the campaign plan and see young people from two schools in Johannesburg (McAuley House and Park Senior) participate in the first series of activities geared towards educating them on their role in making the Internet a better and safer place for all.
As the initiative builds, it will in the pilot phase expand to 20 schools in Johannesburg. Young people and stakeholders will also share insights on how they envisage young people's online safety.
The FPB says with the increase of online users, educating children on and protecting them from child pornography rings, child molesters, paedophiles and from becoming victims of heinous crimes is more important that ever before and must be a national priority.
With the development of the digital landscape and the growing accessibility of Internet resources to our children, it is important their safety on the Internet is treated with utmost importance, it notes.
The FPB will also participate in the global Safer Internet Day annual campaign tomorrow in collaboration with the Eastern Cape Department of Education, and the Steve Biko Centre in East London, Ginsberg.
The board has invited local schools, including Douglass Ross Primary School, Sivuyile Primary School, Hector Peterson High School, and Ginsberg Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, to participate in the day's activities.
"The safety of children is of utmost importance especially with the growth of digital technology. As an organisation, the FPB also seeks to protect children from exposure to harmful materials," says FPB CEO Themba Wakashe.
"Outreach campaigns such as SID ensure that parents, educators, caregivers and all South Africans, are educated about the risks of the cyber world, the dangers that children are exposed to on the worldwide web, and the creation, possession and distribution of child pornography," he adds.
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