Parents' Corner welcomes Google SA campaign to drive online child safety
By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com
Parents' Corner, www.parentscorner.org.za, a BulkSMS.com initiative, welcomes Google South Africa's drive to co-ordinate online safety efforts in the country, and says it is proud to be an inaugural member of the team.
The online child safety campaign was launched on 1 June 2012, on International Children's Day, occurring at the end of Child Protection Week 2012. The effort is intended to co-ordinate the work done by government, industry and civil society. Its objectives are to protect children, empower parents, educate children and create partnerships and collaboration among concerned stakeholders.
The other founder members include: the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities; the Department of Communications; the Film and Publications Board; Childline South Africa; Media Monitoring Africa; Mxit; Nelson Mandela Children's Fund; UNICEF. “This is an important step forwards in the fight to make the Internet a safer place for children, and we are proud to be involved,” said Dr Pieter Streicher, founder of Parents' Corner and managing director of BulkSMS.com.
“While technology itself is neutral, there is no denying that there are risks and dangers to children that need to be mitigated. The alternative, to ban our kids from using the Internet, is short-sighted, unrealistic and will handicap our children in their future lives and careers.”
Parents' Corner was started in March 2009 by BulkSMS.com to be a “guide to mobile technologies for perplexed parents”. In 2011, it carried out research into the dangers of the South African chat room environment for children. Parents' Corner has contributed advice, articles and videos that educate parents and children about online safety matters to Google's local version of its Family Safety Centre, http://www.google.co.za/goodtoknow/familysafety.
The next stage of the collaboration involves a public advocacy campaign and education for parents and children. Streicher is a regular speaker at schools and in the media, providing practical advice about what parents need to know about technology and how children need to protect themselves.
Parents' Corner tips for a safer Internet include:
1. People aren't always who they say they are. Just as adults fall for e-mail phishing scams, children can get taken in by people misrepresenting themselves online.
2. Think before you post. In our day, playground conversations with our friends - complaining about teachers perhaps - ended as soon as the bell rang. Today, however, these conversations take place on Facebook, Mxit or any one of the many social media sights for anyone to read or forward, even years later, and almost impossible to delete.
3. Likewise, children need to think before they respond to things that other people have posted. A casual jokey comment about someone can very quickly escalate into an orchestrated cyber-bullying attack, with bystanders becoming accomplices at the click of mouse.
4. It is not just about computers. Many parents don't understand that the Internet their children can access via their cellphones is the same Internet accessed via a computer. Not only that, it is so much easier to make purchases on the Internet via cellphone, as it just takes the click of a button, rather than entering credit card details.
5. Finally, just as they would in real life, friends must protect friends. There is no foolproof system to protect children from criminals and bullies; and children are going to explore, push boundaries and meet strangers. But children should be empowered to protect themselves and their friends from harm, if they see something they don't like or that scares them.