Kekana urges responsible, safer Internet citizenship

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Deputy minister of communications and digital technologies Pinky Kekana.
Deputy minister of communications and digital technologies Pinky Kekana.

South Africans of all ages have the right and responsibly to educate themselves about digital ethics to learn about online conduct, while protecting themselves from the many threats posed by the Internet.

This was the word from Department of Communications and Digital Technologies deputy minister Pinky Kekana, speaking today at the Safer Internet Day (SID) virtual event hosted by the Film and Publication Board (FPB), in partnership with the Media Monitoring Agency, Google South Africa and Diana Schwartz Attorneys, held under the theme: “Together for a better Internet”.

SID is celebrated globally in February each year to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones for children and young people, and inspire a national conversation.

It was launched in 2004 as part of the European Union SafeBorders project to protect Internet users from online threats, including hate speech, fake news, increased cyber threats and identity theft.

Kekana called upon all stakeholders to unite to make the Internet a safer and better place for all South Africans, especially for children and young people.

“The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has made us more reliant on the Internet. Today’s theme ‘Together for a better Internet’, has never been more important, as we have seen a massive increase in online violence, cyber bullying, trolling and many other threats.

“Being a citizen of the Internet comes with responsibility, and compliance. The FPB, along with other government entities and the private sector, offer many Internet safety courses which I urge you to enrol in and educate yourself on what laws apply to the use of the Internet and how those laws affect you,” Kekana said.

She highlighted the paradox of South African parents commonly spending much time and money erecting high walls and boom gates to keep their homes safe, and yet they often don’t take the same initiative to keep their children’s devices protected and constantly monitored.

“I urge you to educate yourself on what laws apply to the users of the Internet and how those laws can help protect you and your children.”

Also speaking at the event, Abongile Mashele, acting CEO of the FPB, pointed out that children falling victim to predators online and being exposed to harmful digital content is a rising social concern in SA.

“The FPB has a responsibility to protect children from exposure to harmful content, playing a leading role in creating awareness around the dangers of the Internet.

“The amendment of the Films and Publications Act 2019 will provide a broader mandate for regulation of content in the online space, allowing us to advance a more effective mandate role in this regard by always balancing public protection with the constitutional right,” she explained.

Children are growing up in a connected, digitalised society where they are exposed to technology before they can understand the risks associated with online activities, she continued.

Mashele encouraged the safe and responsible use of the digital space as a key tool to empower, educate and entertain South Africans.

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