South Africa is the world’s most internet-addicted country, according to a recent report by Delaware-based VPN platform Atlas VPN. South Africans spend at least 9.5 hours a day online, which is more than a third of their time, and roughly three hours more than people worldwide. In 2022, the average time spent online in 2022 was six hours and 37 minutes, 20 minutes less than in 2021.
In January 2023, Statista reported that the penetration rate of internet users in South Africa stood at 72.3% and 46% of them use social media. More web access also increases the use of social media among young children who are legally not supposed to be active on these type of platforms under the age of 13 years (and WhatsApp only at the age of 16 years).
“With all that time spent online, it is no surprise that cyberbullying is on the increase in our country,” says Dr Marlena Kruger, digital wellness expert, coach, founder of the Technolife Wise Foundation, and owner of MindUnique Education.
A survey of 200 South African parents done in February 2021, found that 51.5% of their children had been cyberbullied and 54% had accessed inappropriate content via digital platforms. The survey company noted that it is likely that the data is underrepresented due to children’s reluctance to tell their parents about an attack they experienced, or they may be the perpetrator themselves.
According to Dr Kruger, cyberbullying is repeated and hurtful words and behaviour that occur online, using digital devices such as smartphones. It includes sharing negative or harmful content about someone on purpose.
“We have seen multiple suicides among young children and teenagers because of cyberbullying. We can no longer watch from the sidelines while internet addiction and the accompanying dangers destroy our youth and, in fact, humanity. It is time to act,” says Dr Kruger.
To make people aware of the dangers of internet addiction, get helpful tips on how to prevent your child from being bullied online, and what you can do to stop internet addiction, the Technolife Wise Foundation is hosting a webinar masterclass called Cyberbullying: The greatest danger of internet addiction on 5 May 2023 at 16:00. This virtual event coincides with Global Digital Wellness Day on 5 May 2023.