Online safety and cyberbullying: a team from Psychology engages in Community Outreach at the local SANDF base

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Psychology Community Outreach at SANDF
Psychology Community Outreach at SANDF

As part of the Psychology Department's Community Engagement, we responded to a request from the lead social worker on the local SANDF 6SAI military base, Major Michelle Thys, to present on the topic 'Online safety and cyberbullying' during the 2019 Child Protection Week.The photograph shows Major Thys and Professor Jacqui Akhurst in the centre, with three of our current Masters in Counselling Psychology students, from left Thembela Zini, Jeslyn Goosen, and Catherine Parkinson, as well as Lieutenant Doyi on the right and one of the captains on the base.


On 30 May 2019, the team presented material at the 6th South African Infantry Battalion base to an audience of more than 400 people. They were a very interested group, all in uniform. Since many of those attending were parents, our focus was both on keeping children safe on social media and the internet, as well as the things that we as adults can do to promote online safety. Building on material prepared by our colleague, Dr Jaclyn Lotter, we provided up to date information on teenagers' use of social and digital communications and the power of social media in identity construction. We then explored 'selfies' and how to ensure that photos posted online should be protected by privacy settings; also discussing the contentious topic of 'sexting'. After describing the varied effects of social networking on people's social and emotional wellbeing, we moved on to discuss cyberbullying.


The topic of cyberbullying is a potentially hidden menace; with it often being even more powerful than actual face to face bullying, because it is so difficult to 'escape' from social messaging via smartphones and social media. We covered guidelines to prevent cyberbullying and encouraged those with caregiving responsibilities to be very vigilant around any changes in youth behaviours. We encouraged parents to discuss all of these issues openly with their children, in order to help with keeping them safer.