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Controlling the cyber schoolyard

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Electronic technology has given traditional bullies an expansive platform from which to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person, resulting in serious emotional consequences for children, tweens and teenagers. By definition, according to stopcyberbullying.org, cyberbullying “has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking.”

“Through the use of devices, such as cell phones, tables, computers, and other electronic devices such as Wi-Fi gaming devices, minors are now under threat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Adding to this severe scenario is that the bully can hide behind anonymity and spread offences far and wide. It is a frightening situation for any minor to be in, and equally worrisome for any parent, guardian and educator, “ says Anton Jacobsz, managing director of Networks Unlimited, South Africa’s leading value-added distributor.

In an article published on South African news site, Daily Maverick, Marelise van der Merwe writes, “In Wired.co.uk, Alan Martin quotes professor of sociology Gerry Crawford, who adds that trolling is ‘the digital version of a poison pen letter’ but that the difference lies in that ‘the speed at which people spit out their venom online doesn’t allow time for reflection or self-censorship, and even less time to consider the consequences or who might end up reading their heat-of-the-moment remarks’. Technological advances mean that there is more room for instant gratification and less inclination for reflection.”

Comments Jacobsz, “Numerous adults unfortunately are awful role models when it comes to cyber behaviour. Scroll down to the comments section on just about any news site today and this deplorable behaviour becomes apparent. We have seen results by social media companies such as Twitter who have set up stricter laws around their abuse policy to stop this type of conduct. However, the onus is still on adults to protect minors from cyberbullying and ensure their e-safety.

“Thankfully minors have the law on their side. The South African Constitution stipulates that the best interests of the child are paramount in every matter concerning the child, and since it is widely recognised that education can only take place in a safe and secure environment, all should be done to ensure a harmonious education milieu.”

An extract from information developed by, CensorNet, in collaboration with Dr Bandey, one of the United Kingdom’s leading experts on International IP, IT Cloud, Internet, Big Data and e-Safety Law, states that “a child cannot enjoy, for example, mental health and emotional well-being whilst being cyberbullied through the school’s ICT. Similarly, a child is not being protected from ‘harm and neglect’ if the school itself has not put into place appropriate technologies to manage the risk in exposure to illegal and inappropriate material on the Internet.” http://www.censornet.com/education/can-help/education-law-e-safety/

Continues Jacobsz, “To assist with preventing cyberbullying activities in education facilities, Networks Unlimited is extremely pleased to have acquired the rights to distribute CensorNet products throughout sub-Saharan Africa. These products not only help organisations step up to the challenge of managing an increasingly mobile work environment, but are also used in many education facilities to provide a safe learning environment.”

During his recent visit to South Africa, UK-based CEO of Censornet, Ed Macnair pointed out that the company’s history in supplying security products to many educators proves that its solutions have been tried, tested and found to be successful. . “No one will try harder to break through a security setting than a determined minor. Being successful in the education market has been a great accolade for us. The floodgates to risk have been opened by employees in both large and small organisations, and our knowledge and proven solutions are proving to be the strong gatekeepers to imminent security breaches. We look forward to bringing these solutions to African companies.”

CensorNet products that address the issues that educators face today include:

* CensorNet Secure Web Gateway, which provides accurate Web and content filtering for schools, colleges and universities. Its key features include accurate blocking of offensive and unsuitable Web sites – based on a database of 100+ million known sites and real-time ratters for unknown sites; blocking anonymous proxy servers (anonymisers); real-time Image Filtering; bandwidth management and scheduling; and complete audit trail of user activity and much more.

* The CensorNet Email Security is a cloud-based email solution that automatically deletes any harmful and unsafe e-mail before they can reach the network. Working as your first line of defence against viruses, malware and spam, it is designed to be easily administrated with enhanced image and content filters.

* Lastly, CensorNet Desktop Monitoring, monitors, records and analyses user activity on desktop, virtual desktop, terminal services and remote desktop sessions.

“We’d like to appeal to the country’s education leaders, school governing bodies, principals and further guardians of our children’s future to take cyberbullying and cyber safety in schools and educational institutions earnestly, and as a true threat to learning, in order to safeguard Africa’s children and contribute to their well-being and success,” concludes Jacobsz.