Wendy Jasson da Costa
A shocking 25% of parents have reported that their child had been cyber-bullied.
This, according to a 2018 Ipsos Global Adviser study conducted in 28 countries, confirmed that South Africa topped the statistics for this form of bullying.
Insurance company First for Women said a recent study among 4000 participants “reinforces the magnitude of this growing problem, with 64% of the participants believing that children are at risk”.
Last week, a 13-year-old pupil at Doornpoort Primary School in Pretoria committed suicide after being cyber-bullied.
The Gauteng Department of Education said a Grade 7 pupil threatened to distribute a video of the deceased Grade 6 pupil, depicted naked, through WhatsApp. The bullying continued for more than a week.
Scandal actress Mvelo Makhanya was also cyber-bullied last week. She was mocked for her “big head” and broke down on social media.
Expert on cyber-bullying and founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety Rianette Leibowitz said: “Besides the alarming statistics, cyber-bullying has been the cause of many young people going as far as taking their own lives, with the impact causing a far-reaching ripple effect.”
First for Women’s Casey Rousseau said the extent of cyber-bullying in South Africa had prompted the women-centric insurer to launch the “first cyber-bullying insurance product in South Africa, which addresses the financial as well as legal burden of cyber-bullying”.
“Cyber-bullying is a crime – a hate crime that sees no sign of abating due to its ease. Bullies can hide behind the screen or a cellphone, and it can be completely anonymous. Putting the full might of the law behind the victims and eradicating the financial burden will no doubt go a long way to putting a stop to it completely.
“The costs of addressing cyber-bullying can be high, with lawyers charging around R3000 an hour for consultations alone. Also, in many instances, legal intervention is needed to put a stop to the bullying and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Rousseau.
First for Women said warning signs of cyber-bullying include:
* Appears edgy or nervous when engaging in online activities like receiving instant messages or emails, engaging in conversations on social media, etc;
* Seems depressed, angry, irritable or frustrated after being online and may also seem regularly depressed;
* Displays unusually secretive behaviour, particularly related to online activity;
* Avoids conversations about their online activities;
* Abruptly turns off or walks away from the computer mid-use;
* Stops using their devices un- expectedly;
* Oversleeping or not getting enough sleep;
* Changes in eating patterns;
* Unexplained headaches or abdominal aches;
* Disengagement from activities, hobbies or pastimes that used to interest them;
* Is unusually withdrawn from friends and family; and
* Often telling you they are feeling ill to avoid going to school or to leave school early.