Schooling disruptions expose kids to online predators


Minister of Basic Education, Angelina Motshekga

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) THE Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) is wary at the exposure of children to online criminals as another coronavirus (COVID-19) wave forces schools to shut down.

Schools must be closed by Friday, as part of restrictions announced last Sunday by President Cyril Ramaphosa to contain the virus.

This leaves pupils with the option to study online.

Angelina Motshekga, the Basic Education Minister, on Monday said in light of the disruptions to schooling brought by COVID and the move to the Risk Adjusted Level 4, the sector had with immediate effect activated the remote learner support programmes.

“We implore parents, guardians and caregivers to ensure that during the recess, children continue to learn, using the available resources,” she said.

The school closures evoke memories of the first outbreak reported last year when schools were closed for months.

“When children were sent home from school so they could learn remotely, the uncomfortable truth is online predators were waiting for them,” said André van der Walt, chairperson of ISPA.

The official noted that reports of internet crimes against society’s most vulnerable have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other international child safety organisations have warned that children are at an increased risk of online harm as schools are closed and social contact restricted.

With COVID-19 quarantines and lockdowns remaining a feature of life parents are searching for more effective ways to better protect their children.

“The first steps on any child online safety journey should involve activating passwords and setting up built-in parental control features aimed at preventing minor access to inappropriate Internet and social media content,” van der Walt advised.

He also encouraged parent child conversations.

– CAJ News



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