The campaign is the brainchild of Google South Africa and it aims to empower children with the tools to help them stay safe while they are online.
Google South Africa Policy Manager, Fortune Mgwili Sibanda, said that whilst the internet plays a positive role in education and information, it also has some of the worst abuse of children.
“The internet is growing at a [fast] pace and has become a playground for our children. We are trying to mitigate the risks online by educating children on how to stay safe online. We can’t block them from accessing the internet as this may lead to them losing out on education and entertainment,” said Sibanda.
The campaign is in two phases, with the first being the launch of a website that has tips and advice on keeping families safe online, cyber bullying, safety tips from parents sharing their wisdom on how to ensure children’s safety online, as well as a platform to report inappropriate content.
Phase two will be the public advocacy campaign, where workshops will be held in schools and communities as well as public campaigns training parents, teachers and children on how to stay safe online.
The site is currently in three languages including English, Afrikaans and IsiZulu.
Speaking at the launch on Friday, Xingwana said social networks were central to the day-to-day lives of many young people and it was important for parents to have regular, open discussions with their children about their experiences on the internet and their online activities.
“Even though extensive efforts have been put into protecting children online in other countries, not much work has been done in South Africa and the Southern Africa region… The campaign will be the first of its kind involving government, the private sector and civil society,” Xingwana said.
She, however, said that parents’ approach should not be to scare children away from technology but to empower them with ways in which they can use online technology responsibly and to protect themselves from possible harm.
In support of the campaign, the Department of Communications’ Petronella Linders said they have worked hard to create a safe environment online and they support the commitment to train parents and empower them to be able to discuss these issues with their children.
“The primary objective is to empower parents, children and stakeholders to get involved in protecting children and as the department we are fully behind it.
“We have the power to turn this campaign around by getting involved. [As parents], speak to your children, go and make positive videos and put them on the internet so that children can have positive content to look at as opposed to putting on negative videos,” said Linders.
South Africa this week observes Child Protection Week.