The groups included the Department of Social Development (DSD), represented by Gyan Dwarika; Legal Aid South Africa, represented by national legal manager Dick Khubana; the Film and Publications Board (FPB), represented by child protection officer Mmaletjema Poto; the DOJ and CD, represented by child justice and family law director Dr Charmain Badenhorst; and child rights and child protection consultant Dr Joan van Niekerk.
Cybercrime, particularly cyberbullying, was a key topic in the discussion, as all children who use technology were at risk.
Dwarika said preventative measures were crucial to addressing this issue. These measures included the responsibility of parents of victims and the parents of cyberbullies to check and restrict internet usage, to ensure the safety of children online.
“Protective measures children can use to keep safe online is to be aware of email phishing schemes, the dangerous side of social media. Do background checks if there are any doubts. Never send intimate videos or photos, and always use strong passwords,” said Dwarika.
Poto said a spotlight had been shone on the severe bullying and violence that children experience in schools across the country since 15-year-old Limpopo learner Lufuno Mavhunga had committed suicide after the viral video of her being bullied by a classmate last month.
To combat these incidents, Badenhorst said the DOJ and CD was in the process of finalising the Cybercrimes Bill.
Badenhorst said there was a need to focus on early interventions and early referrals of children at risk to social workers or mental health professionals, and there was a need for the school-based support system to formalise the link with the DSD and the Department of Health at a district level.
“It is important that this message reaches all levels, especially parents and children at a district level. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring our children know their responsibilities and are safe,” said Dwarika.