Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD to News24 and IOL for publishing articles emphasising on the protection of children online.
The first article, “Think before posting your children’s pics” (News24, 21/01/2019) explains to parents and readers the necessity of protecting children online and also the importance of refraining from posting their pictures on social media especially without the proper use of privacy settings. The journalist, Sharika Regchand, accesses a clinical psychologist and a social media expert.
Clinical psychologist, Rakhi Beekrum is quoted explaining that the amount of information about a child that people make available online can expose the child to different kinds of harm.
“For instance, posting a picture of your child on the first day of school with their uniform, mentioning the grade and teacher’s name, makes it easier for someone to try to earn the child’s trust or for child traffickers,” she is quoted saying.
Social media expert, Dr Sandra Pitcher shares the same view when she underlines the fact that anything a person has shared online about a child can be used by anyone.
The second article, “DNA tests for mum who abandoned baby in Verulam” (IOL, 18/01/2019) by Chanelle Lutchman also highlights the significance of not sharing pictures of children on social media. The article is about a new-born who was placed in a newspaper and plastic bag and dumped in a trash bin. The article reports that respondents to the scene, Reaction Unit South Africa (RUSA), who attended to the baby and took him to a hospital, posted pictures of the infant online.
In response to RUSA’s posting of the infant’s pictures and his suspected mother’s arrest, social media expert, Emma Sadlier is quoted saying, “Generally where children are involved and can be identified and affected, it is not wise to release pictures or names. If the story isn’t as it seems then the mother could have a huge defamation case. I can’t imagine that it is in the best interest of the children for the mother to be named and shamed, especially if there isn’t evidence like a picture or video footage available. It’s very dangerous and those who are sharing the posts need to understand they are republishing the original post and they are just as responsible as the original publisher.”
MMA’s research, “Status of children’s rights in south African media” found that there was a lack of focus on social media and the protection of children online as a topic. This can be seen by the type of topics on children mostly covered by the media.
MMA is very pleased that the journalists of the two articles reported on the protection of children on social media. We feel it is important for such a topic to be reported on to educate citizens as the wellbeing of children is often compromised when adults irresponsibly post pictures of children online.
Congratulations again to News24 and IOL! We look forward to reading many more stories that centre on protection of children offline and online.
By Jacques Ndong
 A GLAD refers to an article where the rights and welfare of children have been promoted.