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South African Kids Online: A glimpse into children's internet use and online activities

Pretoria, South Africa, 21 September 2016

One in three children has been exposed to hate speech and inappropriate images on the internet and many children were upset by this experience. What is more, one in five children has met face-to-face with a stranger they first encountered online.

These are some of the findings shared during the launch of the South Africa ‘Kids Online’ study on 21 September 2016, ahead of the Global Launch of the Global Kids Online Toolkit in New York, Unites States, in October.

Other findings featured in the study reveal that:
•    Most South African children have fun when they go on the internet and see it as something that is good for them;
•    But a little over one in four children have personally been bothered by something on the internet in the past year;
•    Most children value the internet for learning purposes but rarely use the internet at school or receive guidance from their teachers on how to use the internet;
•    Parents want to help their children but don’t feel they know enough about how to use the internet to guide them.
‘Children and young people are leading the digital uptake in developing countries, but this also means that they are more likely to be exposed to negative online experiences. UNICEF believes that by understanding how children and young people are behaving in the digital space, they can be empowered to be responsible users’, said Mr. Anthony Nolan, UNICEF South Africa Chief of Child Protection, at the event.

Across South Africa, children of all ages are connecting to the internet. Children’s internet use is often associated with negative outcomes like cyberbullying or access to inappropriate materials, but the internet also expands the opportunities available to children for learning, participation and creativity.
    
South African Kids Online is a pilot study conducted by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention which explored South African children’s online experiences. This study formed part of an ongoing global initiative, Global Kids Online, facilitated by UNICEF and the London School of Economics and Political Science, which aims to promote research on children’s internet use in developing countries. This involved testing and refining a set of research tools that can be used in developing countries and piloting them in four countries: South Africa, Argentina, Serbia and the Philippines. The ultimate goal of this project is to support the development of an evidence base on how children use the internet and allow countries to develop appropriate policy and practice based on the research done in their country.

South African Kids Online interviewed 962 children, aged 9 to 17 years old, in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng regions about their internet use. Their parents were also interviewed (552 of them), to find out how parents used the internet themselves and how they mediated their children’s internet use.  

The study found that children are generally active, engaged internet users and that they often begin using the internet from an early age (the average age was 11 years old). Children tended to not receive much support from their parents, teachers and friends around their internet use, and generally were free to use the internet without supervision.

That said, children reported facing barriers to their internet access, with younger children saying that their parents or other adults didn’t let them use the internet and older children blaming the cost of internet connectivity, and particularly mobile phone ‘data’. Children and parents also reported facing some challenges finding content online that was culturally relevant and in their home language.

The findings of the study suggested that children are in need of more support from their parents, teachers and friends, around how to use the internet safely, in ways that benefit their lives. In particular, this would require parents themselves to be given guidance as to how to manage their children’s internet use, as parents currently feel ill-equipped to do so. In addition, work needs to be done to decrease the cost of internet access in South Africa, as this is currently a major barrier preventing children from accessing the internet.

UNICEF South Africa

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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January/February 2020

 
 
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