Strengthening the fight against cyberbullying


By Mduduzi Malinga

Brand South Africa collaborated with the Film and Publication Board (FPB) to raise awareness on emerging online social ills such as cyberbullying and the dissemination of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).

Safer Internet Day 2023 took place this month at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium, Gqeberha, with commemorations and learnings based on the theme ‘Want to talk about it? Making space for conversations about life online’.

The Day is celebrated annually in approximately 140 countries on the second Tuesday of February, to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology by children and young people around the world.

According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) study, South Africa’s data consumption reached 8 billion Gigabytes (GB) in 2022 and increased Internet access from 39.5% in 2019 to 43,6% in 2022.

With the increase in access to mobile technologies, a trend of children being exposed to harmful content and falling victim to predators online, has become a serious problem.

Children across the globe are increasingly faced with cyberbullying on social media that leads to depression and suicide.

According to Statista, as of January 2022, there were 41.19 million active internet users in South Africa. It also found that 28 million internet users in the country used social media, which makes up 46 percent of the total population.

“We all have the outmost responsibility to navigate and interact in the online space with respect. We are empowered to be able to take up any abusive online activity to the authorities, said Deputy Minister of Communications, Philly Mapulane.

An IPSOS survey conducted in 28 countries in 2018, showed that 65% of all incidents of cyberbullying occurred on social media, with 45% perpetrated from mobile phones, 38% emanating from online messaging, 34% from online chatrooms, 19% from emails, 14% from other websites, and 6% from other technologies.

In South Africa, the FPB/UNISA survey revealed that 67% of all incidents of bullying were committed by classmates, 29% by a young person who was a stranger, 15% by known adults and 14% by adult strangers. Almost 40% of the students who were surveyed, acknowledged that they had been cyberbullied.

The Film and Publication Board has a mandate in terms of the Films and Publications Act 65 of 1996 to regulate the creation, production, possession and distribution of films, publications, and games to:

  • provide consumer advice to enable adults to make informed viewing, reading, and gaming choices, both for themselves and for children in their care.
  • protect children from exposure to disturbing and harmful materials and premature exposure to adult experiences; and
  • to ensure that that the use of children in the creation of pornography is punishable.

It is therefore imperative for parents to play their part and be aware of their children’s online and offline activities, always remain vigilant and talk to children about the risks of the internet and social media platforms.