The directorate’s Hangwani Mulaudzi says the danger of sexual exploitation on children is that it takes place away from parent’s sight and can easily go unnoticed.
“An increasing amount of exploitation takes place in the dark, in the shadows of the internet, on website and message boards, through file sharing and in real time now with webcam.”
Social networking is on the rise, and the study found that 45% of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day, and that 75 percent own cell phones. This level of engagement online increases the risks of cyberbullying, sexual exploitation “Facebook depression” (a new phenomenon where “de-friending” and online bullying lead to symptoms of depression), exposure to inappropriate content, and sexting.
Just as we prepare our kids for life in the real world, we should prepare them for life in the online world.
Here are some helpful hints to share with connected kids:
* Be nice. Mean behavior is just as unacceptable in the virtual world as it is in the real world. Make it clear that you expect your kids to treat others with respect and courtesy, and to never post hurtful or embarrassing messages about others. And ask them to always tell you about any harassing or bullying messages that others may post.
* Think twice before hitting “enter.” Remind teens that what they post can be used against them. For example, letting the world know that you’re off on vacation or posting your home address gives would-be robbers a chance to strike. Teens also should avoid posting specific locations of parties or events, as well as phone numbers.
* Follow the “WWGS?” (What Would Grandma Say?) rule. Teach kids that “once it’s out there, you can’t get it back.” They shouldn’t share anything on social media that they wouldn’t want their teachers, college admissions officers, future bosses — and yes, grandma — to see.
* Use privacy settings. Privacy settings are important, and to highlight their importance, go through the settings together to make sure your kids understand each one. Also, explain that passwords are there to protect them against things like identity theft and should never be shared with anyone (even a boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend).
* Don’t “friend” strangers. “If you don’t know them, don’t friend them.” This is a plain, simple — and safe — rule of thumb.
And don’t forget: Setting a good example through your own virtual behavior can go a long way toward helping your kids use social media safely.