MXit, the cell phone-based social networking forum, is often blamed when kids inadvertently give out personal information which may compromise their safety. Now parents will be able to use a new chatroom blocking function to take safety into their own hands.
The funtion has been designed to enhance MXit’s existing safety protocols, and to protect young and vulnerable children from the possible dangers encountered when using online communication irresponsibly.
The new blocking functionality was launched on Friday (5 December) to coincide with the beginning of the school holidays.
A trial period will run until the end of the holidays after which point its success and effectiveness will be reviewed.
Herman Heunis, CEO of MXit, says the new functionality was designed to give parents extra control – where deemed necessary – and would hopefully bring safety issues under the spotlight at a time when many kids are expected to be spending more time on MXit and other online chatrooms.
"Parents have shared their concerns with us, and while we believe that the majority of our chatroom users are safety-conscious, we want to give parents of young users the extra control they are looking for," says Heunis.
"This block functionality allows parents to restrict access to MXit chatrooms by following a few simple steps and setting up a password on their child’s phone. This is to prevent young children who do not have the emotional maturity to responsibly use chatrooms from accessing them."
The chatroom blocking instructions can be accessed from the Info menu item on the main menu of MXit, where it is prominently displayed. Parents can set up the functionality on their child’s phone, and the next time they log on to chat the block will be active. It can only be unblocked by typing in the correct password.
According to Heunis, this development does not signal a new trend within MXit but is simply an extension of the safety and security concerns which have been central to the company’s ethos since its beginnings.
"MXit has taken great care to put safety measures in place to protect vulnerable users. These include age restrictions, moderation, profanity filters and a process to report abuse. This blocking functionality now allows for greater parental control over young MXit users when education is not considered to be enough," says Heunis.
He adds that parents should still discuss online safety with their children. "We would like to make it clear to parents that this initiative does not mean they have no further responsibility for protecting their children. Giving a phone to a youngster with internet access requires a parent to set the relevant rules and we have taken care to communicate what we think these should be."