Digify Africa says that Antibullying Week (Monday, 13 November to Friday, 17 November) is an important time to highlight the issue of bullying.

The rise in social media use among teens has led to South Africa having one of the highest cyberbullying rates. A 2021 survey conducted by Digimune with 200 school learners revealed that over 51% of the survey participants had experienced cyberbullying, says the organisation.

This makes teens more vulnerable to online bullying today than ever before. Studies show that the impact of bullying on mental and emotional well-being can be severe, and victims of bullying stand a higher risk of depression, which can often persist into adulthood, Digify Africa says.

Under the theme 'United Against Bullying', the roundtable discussion will bring together key role players from the public and private sectors to look at ways to empower communities in the fight against bullying. The discussion will delve into the measures taken to address the issue of cyberbullying and discuss ways to improve access to digital literacy.

According to the organisation, Cyber Wellness Advocate Rianette Leibowitz will moderate the discussion, and the panellists will include:
  • Qhakaza Mohare from Digify Africa
  • Mmalemetja Poto from The Film Publication and Advertising Board
  • Ricky Modise from the Department of Basic Education, and
  • Mahlatse Mabaso from Rays of Hope.

Phil Odour from Meta will give a presentation that unpacks Meta's commitment to internet safety and the launch of Meta's most recent initiative, '#EbaSafeOnline' Comic Book. The discussion will further consider training interventions, preventative methods and tools that can be leveraged to promote anti-bullying behaviour in schools, says Digify Africa. 

Digify Africa adds that it has been at the forefront of promoting digital literacy skills through initiatives such as Ilizwe Lam and Kitso.

Ilizwe Lam is a series of workshops conducted in schools throughout South Africa, with the support of Meta, to educate learners on online safety and promote responsible usage of the Internet. Kitso is a WhatsApp bot that uses ChatGPT technology to provide users with valuable digital literacy content directly to their mobile devices.

This solution allows for convenient access to digital literacy resources, helping users develop important skills and knowledge related to technology and their online world.

Learners and educators are guided through various online safety topics, including:
  • how to identify cyberbullying
  • safeguarding privacy, and
  • understanding one's digital footprint.

According to the organisation, this approach aims to equip teenagers with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions in their online activities and encourage responsible behaviour as digital citizens. 

Digify Africa says Ilizwe Lam and Kitso have been instrumental in helping young people develop awareness about their online world; since launching in 2021, Kitso has trained more than 216 000 in essential online safety skills.

"Our goal at Digify Africa is to ensure equal access to digital literacy. We strongly believe that knowledge and awareness can be powerful tools in the fight against cyberbullying," says Polly Sekwela, Ilizwe Lam's project manager.

Digify Africa concludes that it recognises that building safer online communities requires a collaborative effort. Through these initiatives, the organisation aims to create platforms for dialogue and provide insights that promote responsible online behaviour.

For more information, visit www.digifyafrica.com. You can also follow Digify Africa on Facebook, X or on Instagram.