Group of kids playing video games on smart phone after school

Safer Internet Day empowers youth to make smarter online decisions

Celebrated annually,
<> Safer Internet Day takes place on
Tuesday, 11 February 2020 and South Africa’s leading online safety Program
in schools, MySociaLife, has partnered with the world’s global Safer
Internet Day organisation to highlight bullying, harmful conduct, illegal
online activity, and help give young people the tools they need to empower
themselves online in South Africa.

“With more than 22 million South Africans on Facebook, 8 million on
Instagram and 5 million now on teen hype-app, TikTok, there is a vast number
of adults and children exploring social media apps, and yet very few young
learners have been given any formal education and training,” says Dean
McCoubrey, founder of  <> MySociaLife, a South
African in-school ‘Digital Life Skills Program’ teaching digital life skills
program for schools.

Internet Day

He adds that mobile devices boomed in 2007 and that children and adults
alike understandably picked them up with a feverish appetite. “There were no
manuals or guidebooks, and no warnings about how they could impact mental or
physical health. Technology companies do not relent either, taking advantage
of our collective obsession with our phones.  Research conducted by Kleiner
Perkins in 2017, revealed a Research & Development investment of over
R1.5trillion ($100bn) by five of the biggest brands in the world. “The
competition for our attention, our clicks, and our money, is fierce,”
McCoubrey states.

Safer Internet Day started in 2012 when
parents, teachers and others working with young people realised that the
time had come to help guide them around the possibilities and pitfalls of
the Internet.

Technology is truly amazing for entertainment, education and connection,
but there are many complexities that come with the constant quest for more
followers, likes and online admiration,” McCoubrey says. “We need the
critical thinking skills to be able to see through the various risks that
come with social media – trolling, flaming, sexting, chat forums, privacy,
as a few examples – or our kids can find themselves in vulnerable and
fearful situations – a reason anxiety has spiked in the last decade.

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Internet Day

What can parents, teachers and young people do to make the Internet a safer
place to have fun, engage, and share their content? MySociaLife recommends
four simple steps, along with turning to
-safety-rules-and-what-not-to-do-online> trusted online resources for

  • Protect your privacy and security – there are approximately 4 billion people online globally, so private accounts ensure you minimise contact with unwanted strangers who connect via public social media accounts.
  • Check the privacy settings on the device itself, and on all the
    platforms where you’re active. Scroll through the settings and lock down the
    areas you don’t want open.
  • By chasing followers and sharing posts publicly, more and more
    people will have their own opinions on what you have to say and show – and
    may disagree or criticise. To limit criticism, we need to limit who we share
    our posts with, or prepare ourselves for unexpected feedback and unwanted
    messages. Many kids do not think this through.
  • Be cautious of ‘clickbait’ – bold headlines and stories that ask you
    to share your information, sometimes asking for credit card details. Avoid
    being scammed by only sharing payment information on trusted sites – after
    you’ve discussed the transaction with your parents.

At the age when teens are faced with these complex issues, their prefrontal
cortex – which controls planning, decision-making, and self-control isn’t
developed enough to make the best decisions, and so they are literally “hot
on the button”. To survive online, they need someone to equip them with
insights, data, video and case studies that all promote the critical
thinking – a small moment to consider their options – to help them see when
a potentially dangerous situation pops-up.

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“Values and guidelines need to be translated into an online context, we need
to explain carefully what our expectations are when we are online. Safer
Internet Day is the perfect opportunity to remind tweens and teens that even
though the Internet makes it possible to be anonymous, test other aspects of
their personality, and be more risky, most of them wouldn’t swear like that
at home, or bully someone face-to-face, or speak to a stranger in a shopping
mall. And yet, so many kids do these things, getting into trouble with the
law, and affecting their own future, their family, and even putting
themselves at risk.”