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social media, the dangers and the law The world of social media can hold many dangers for naïve children as well as legal implications. Here’s what you need to know to protect your child.


ould you drop off your child at the park and leave them unattended for a few hours? Most parents would answer “no”, so why do we allow our children on social media and online spaces without monitoring their activity? As a mother of 5- and 8-year-old children, I know that every parent wants to protect their children from any harm. However, there seems to be a big absence of informed parenting in the digital age, or simple ignorance, in South African homes with regard to the effects of social media, the dangers facing children on social media and the law. The internet has a wealth of knowledge and benefits for education, socialisation and connectivity. It is a great tool for children if used in a safe and positive way, however, as with anything in life, there are also dangers that parents and children need to be aware of. Most parents do not know even know what cyberbullying, sexting, online grooming, cyberstalking or catfishing is! Children are not monitored online, are not taught online safety and are gifted by parents with the latest smart devices and mobile phones, then left to explore the internet and social media at their leisure. The result, of course, is high exposure to inappropriate and violent content online, vulnerability or risk of social media offences being committed against children, and children committing social media offences. To a large extent, most adults are ignorant of the legal implications of their own actions on social media. Statistics and experience have shown that 95% of parents are completely in the dark regarding the social media dangers facing their children, the age limits of the various platforms, the legal implications of their children’s actions on social media and online safety. Children and parents are often unaware that children can be held legally liable for their actions. The law defines a child as “a person under the age of 18 years old”.


magazine | joburg spring 2019

PHOTOGRAPH: todd trapani | unsplash.COM

Diana Schwarz

In South Africa, children from the age of 7 can be sued in the name of their parent or legal guardian, while children aged 11–18 can be sued in their own name with the assistance of a parent or guardian and are deemed to be legally liable for their actions; they can be sued civilly or charged criminally. Children from 11 years up to 14 years of age have criminal capacity and the onus to prove criminal capacity on the part of the child accused of having committed a crime, rests with the State. Children

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Child magazine | JHB Spring Sep/Oct/Nov 2019  

Child magazine | JHB Spring Sep/Oct/Nov 2019