Online safety campaign launched

Johannesburg - The launch of internet search engine Google's Online Child Safety Campaign on Friday was a noble effort to protect children, Minister of Children Lulu Xingwana said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to commend Google for rolling out this campaign, which seeks to create a safe online environment for children, who are exposed to the world of internet and cyberspace in general.”

Xingwana was speaking in Rosebank, Johannesburg, during Child Protection Week.

According to a statement from her department, she said Google's initiative, which conducts the safety campaign through a Family Safety website, was a welcome intervention.

It provided parents with tools which helped them prevent their children from accessing, or being exposed to, harmful online content. The online campaign was the first of its kind involving the government, the private sector, and civil society.

“We have read about many incidents where young people have fallen victims after arranging meetings with strangers they have met through social networks,” the minister said.

“In addition, we have many more young people who use (the) internet to view pornographic and other harmful material.”

Xingwana said online technology had transformed the world in a way unimaginable a few years ago. But the advent of the internet and mobile technology also heightened children's vulnerability.

“Our approach should not be to scare children away from technology, but to empower them with ways in which they can use online technology responsibly, and to protect themselves from possible harm.”

She said she was pleased Google South Africa had responded positively to the government's call for the business sector to play its part in ensuring the safety and protection of children.

“As a department responsible for the rights of children, we are pleased to be partners in a noble cause like this,” Xingwana said. - Sapa