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Safer Internet Day highlights sexual grooming signs parents need to know about

Celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for young people, this year’s Safer Internet Day came amid a dramatic increase in child sexual grooming in South Africa. Here are 7 pointers for parents to consider to help keep their young ones safe.

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people, while it seek to inspire a national conversation on the other hand. 

This year’s festivities however, took into confidence many parents who may be concerned about the safety of their children – as data from the Digital Law Company shows that there has been a dramatic increase in the cases where young boys and girls have been groomed into sending sexually suggestive or naked photos and videos by someone they have met on social media.

Often, the perpetrator appears at first to be another teenager but who is, in actual fact nothing but an adult (usually male) paedophile preying on multiple young victims.

A classic case involves an Instagram account claiming to be an official Miss Teen South Africa account which reportedly lured hundreds of young girls with the promise of an international modelling contract and R500,000 up for grabs in prizes.

As soon as young girls liked the account, they were asked to send a WhatsApp to the number of an international modelling scout for the “international model verification process”.

All too soon the “verification process” was asking these young girls for photographs of themselves without any clothes on. This was not Miss Teen South Africa, or any kind of modelling contest – it was a sexual predator living in South Johannesburg.

Pointers to help parents keep their children safe

With South African families being confined to their homes over the next few weeks as part of the adjusted level 3 lockdown, a growing portion of the day is being spent online, whether it is for work.  

This however could be an opportune time for sexual predators to take advantage of the increased time that children spend on social media networks – from Instagram, to Snapchat, gaming chat rooms and Tik Tok – which also happen to be preferred hangout for them.

While parents can’t simply ban their children from social media altogether, here are a few pointers on what they should consider to help keep them safe:

●   Ensure your child has a private account.

●   Have conversations with your child about:

o   Stranger danger and not talking to people you do not know in real life

o   being discerning about who you allow to follow you on Instagram – explain to your children that being popular on Instagram is like being rich in monopoly!

o   Blocking anyone who makes you feel even in the slightest bit uncomfortable online

o   Confronting you whenever they feel upset/unconfirmable or threatened

●   Limit time spent online –  there are a number of apps and tools which allow you to limit the time your children spend online or on specific apps. Apple’s Screen Time app and Google Family Link are two free and relatively easy to use options.

●   Disable location services on the app so that your child’s location is not accessible to others

*Article by Vox, in partnership with the Digital Law Company.

*For brand focused South African news and exclusive tech launch events, make sure to regularly visit the NOWinSA/Tech page!

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