The Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Lulu Xingwana, has applauded Google for initiating the Online Child Safety campaign, describing it as a noble initiative that would “go down as one of the most important developments in our collective efforts to protect our children”.
Minister Xingwana was speaking during her keynote address on Friday at the launch of the Online Child Safety Campaign as part of Child Protection Week. She believes that Google’s initiative, which conducts an Online Child Safety Campaign through a Family Safety Website, is a welcome intervention especially because it involves parents by empowering them with tools that allows them to prevent their children from accessing or being exposed to harmful online content. It will enable parents them to carefully select the content that their children can view online.
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend Google for rolling out this campaign, which seeks to create a safe online environment for children who are exposed to the world of internet and cyberspace in general”, said the Minister.
The rate of internet usage by young people in South Africa is increasing at a rapid pace, and 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.
Minister Xingwana said that online technology had massively transformed the world in a way unimaginable only a few years ago, but warned that the advent of the internet and mobile technology had increased children’s vulnerability.
“We have read about many incidents where young people have fallen victims after arranging meetings with strangers they have met through social networks. In addition, we have many more young people who use internet to view pornographic and other harmful material”.
“While technology is contributing positively to our world’s communication and development needs, it can also be a useful tool for criminal elements in our society, who thrive on child pornography, rapes, kidnapping, murders and child trafficking”.
“However, our 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.”
Minister Xingwana said that she was pleased that Google South Africa was responding positively to government’s call for the business sector to play its part in ensuring the safety and protection of children. “As a department responsible for the rights of children, we are pleased to be partners in a noble cause like this”, said the Minister.
The Minister urged parents to accept that social networks play a significant part in the day-to-day lives of many young people. It was important, she said, to have regular, open and honest discussions with children about their experiences on the internet and the things they do online. Parents have a responsibility to monitor their children’s online activities.
This online child safety campaign is the first of its kind involving government, the private sector and civil society.