by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – MTN has called for increased vigilance needed to keep South Africa’s children safe from online harm.
The mobile telecommunications company noted as the world moved increasingly into the virtual world, children and remote workers were becoming more vulnerable to new forms of attacks and online detriment.
These range from cyber bullying, sexual exploitation and grooming, to fraud and more “creative” forms of cyber-fraud, privacy invasion and theft.
Celia Mantshiyane, General Manager for Technology Security at MTN South Africa says the increased demand for digital services is here to stay, raising the stakes for all users to heighten their vigilance and take more proactive safety measures.
“Ask any parent, and one of the things keeping them awake at night is the risks and unknowns their children face every day in the cyberworld. This includes the dark web, and the strangers and dangers that live in the virtual shadows to prey on the most vulnerable,” the official said.
Mantshiyane said the numerous COVID-19 lockdowns worsened matters.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that a lack of face-to-face contact with friends and partners led to heightened risk-taking such as sending sexualised images.
Increased and unstructured time online exposed children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as greater risk of cyber bullying.
“Our children were suffering the most collateral damage of anyone during the crisis,” Mantshiyane said.
This as Childline reported a more than 36,8 percent increase in the calls received for help, compared to August 2019.
“Even now that restrictions are being lifted, they remain increasingly vulnerable,” Mantshiyane said.
Cyber-security firm, Surfshark recently revealed that South Africa has ranked sixth in the world with cyber-crime density, rising from 11,8 cyber crime victims per 1 million internet users in 2016 to 14,1 victims per 1 million in 2019.
Between 2018 and 2019, the number of breached users in South Africa increased by 490 percent.
The MTN Group has embarked on a major initiative to help limit these risks, starting with the dangers children are facing.
It recently joined forces with the Internet Watch Foundation Meta, International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and Child Helpline International.
This is with the support of the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime to launch the Help Children be Children campaign and the Child Safety Online Africa Portal.
– CAJ News