South Africa has the highest prevalence of cyber bullying, with a quarter of parents reporting that their child had been cyber bullied. This is according to a 2018 Ipsos Global Advisor study conducted in 28 countries. The findings from another survey conducted by 1st for Women reinforces the magnitude of this growing problem with 64% of the 4000 participants believing that children are at risk.
Rianette Leibowitz, an expert on cyber bullying and founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety NPC, concurs: “Besides the alarming statistics, cyber bullying has been the cause of many young people going as far as taking their own lives with the impact causing a far-reaching ripple effect.”
The extent of cyber bullying in South Africa has prompted the women-centric insurer to launch the first cyber bullying insurance product in South Africa, which addresses the financial as well as legal burden of cyber bullying.
“The costs of addressing cyber bullying can be astronomical with lawyers charging around R3000 an hour for consultations alone. Also, in many instances, legal intervention is needed to put a stop to the bullying and bring the perpetrators to justice,” says Casey Rousseau from 1st for Women.
1st for Women offers parents advice for keeping their children safe online:
Warning signs of cyber bullying
- Appears edgy or nervous when engaging in online activities e.g. receiving instant messages or emails, engaging in conversations on social media, etc.
- Seems depressed, angry, irritable or frustrated after being online and may also seem regularly depressed
- Displays unusually secretive behaviour, particularly related to online activity
- Avoids conversations about their online activities
- Abruptly turns off or walks away from the computer mid-use
- Stops using their devices unexpectedly
- Oversleeping or not getting enough sleep
- Changes in eating patterns – increase or decrease in appetite
- Unexplained headaches or stomach aches
- Disengagement from activities, hobbies or pastimes that used to interest them
- Is unusually withdrawn from friends and family
- Often telling you they are feeling ill to avoid going to school or to leave early
Expert tips to prevent and address cyber bullying
- Don’t delay having open and honest discussions about cyber bullying with your children – education and support are the first steps to eradicating the problem.
- Look out for behavioural changes and listen carefully to things that have been said to, or about your children, online. Something that may seem trivial to you could be impacting them immensely both emotionally and physically.
- Educate yourself and your children on the different types of cyber bullying, how to identify these and to never respond to messages of a cyber bullying nature.
- Become part of your children’s social media circles and lives with the intention to observe (and not to comment).
- Take the conversation offline if you see something worrying in their online interactions. Take a screen grab or photo of the messages and discuss the interaction with them in person.
- Set a good example in your own online behavior when posting messages to friends or on social platforms such as news sites.
“Cyber bullying is a crime – a hate crime that sees no sign of abating due to its ease. Bullies can hide behind the screen or a cellphone, and it can be completely anonymous. Putting the full might of the law behind the victims, and eradicating the financial burden, will no doubt go a long way to putting a stop to it completely,” concludes Rousseau.