CHILDREN in South Africa are at greater risk for cyberviolence, including sexual harassment, bullying and blackmail, since lockdown.
This is the fear of research psychologist Dr Antoinette Basson who presented at the African Child Trauma Conference 2020 this week, on the topic of how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on cyberviolence in schools.
“Most children are now increasing their online behaviour to do schoolwork or socialising with friends.This will put them at greater risk for exploitation, violence and abuse. We will definitely see an increase in cyberbullying, online harassment, online threatening, blackmailing, sexual exploitation and hate speech,” said Basson.
She said this was a great concern as South Africa does not have the structures to deal with such an increase.
Basson said her research did not show any difference in violence levels in state schools compared to private schools.
“We as a South African nation are experiencing very similar problems when it comes to school violence.”
Senior public prosecutor with the National Prosecuting Authority, Carina Coetzee, said there was a backlog in court cases relating to children due to reduced operations during lockdown.
“Not many cases could proceed during that period and new cases could not start.
“What we’ve seen during lockdown is what the below-5-year-old child always experiences an inability to report, no access to anybody except the abuser,” said Coetzee.
Dr Shaheda Omar of the Teddy Bear Foundation said violence was not caused by Covid-19.
“It has been magnified and unveiled by Covid. It is now coming out in the open. For many children the impact of Covid will be lifelong,” said Omar.
She said that at home and at school, children and families were adversely affected by the pandemic.
“The conditions of conflict and inequalities have certainly interrupted school attendance; we know that access to food and job losses have certainly also affected families. Starvation is a crime against humanity. We are a deeply wounded country and continent.”
The violence against children could be seen in call volumes to Childline SA increasing by 30% during lockdown, said national executive Dumisile Nala. The increase was particularly marked when alcohol sales were allowed again.
“Around June when the resale of alcohol was opened again, we definitely saw an increase in the number of calls compared to the week before,” Nala said.
Speakers at the conference called for a co-ordinated approach to tackle violence against children.
Originally published at IoL