Cyber-bullying, which is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets, has become a major issue in South Africa. Recent statistics show that an unacceptable 1 in 4 South African teens have been subjected to cyber-bullying. This is extremely worrying for parents, for schools, and most importantly, for the victims themselves.
Antony Seeff, a co-founder of KidTech, which provides cellular solutions for schoolkids, says, “the cyber-bullying problem is often perceived by teens as being a bigger issue than drug abuse.” “And it has a major effect on the victims”, continues Seeff. Studies show that kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues and are more likely to encounter:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
- Health complaints.
- Decreased academic achievement and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
In response to this growing threat, KidTech has just launched a website, available at http://www.ismychildbeingcyberbullied.co.za/ , to help parents identify whether their child could potentially be a victim of cyber-bullying and to provide advice to those parents to help them deal with the situation.
Parents are unfortunately kept in the dark regarding cyber-bullying, as children are embarrassed about the abuse or think their parents won’t relate or understand. As such, parents are often unaware that their child may be going through an extremely difficult situation. Even if parents do become aware of any cyber-bullying, they are often at a loss as to how to handle it – whether with their child, with their child’s school, with other parents, or even with the police if necessary. Ismychildbeingcyberbullied.co.za tries to assist with all these matters through an easy-to-use online survey, which is followed up with some real-world advice.
Toma Batev, another co-founder of KidTech explains that, “all you have to do is complete a short 10-question survey, answering some questions about your child’s behaviour.” “The website will then tell you the probability of your child being cyber-bullied and email you a variety of suggestions to help them” continues Batev.
Nic Botes, the third co-founder of KidTech concludes, “we’ve identified cyber-bullying as being one of the major threats facing our children when they are given access to cellphones”. “We are addressing this through our solution, but are aware of the greater problem in South Africa and are doing what we can to build awareness of the issue and help parents deal with it”, he says.