South Africans at high risk for harmful online behaviour

2019-02-20 06:02

SOUTH Africans are among the most at risk for exposure to negative behaviour online, according to Microsoft’s 2019 Digital Civility Index (DCI) which was released today.

The annual study examines the online behaviour of internet users in 22 countries and its release coincides with international Safer Internet Day; a call to action for all stakeholders to join together in creating a better internet for everyone — especially younger users. It gauges the attitudes and perceptions of teens between 13 and 17 and adults between 18 and 74 about the state of digital civility today and also measures people’s safety online and exposure to risks such as cyberbullying, unwanted contact and harassment, as well as exposure to hoaxes and scams. This year South Africa ranked 21st out of 22 countries surveyed for exposure to online risks.

“South Africans in general were found to suffer significant pain from online risks, with the most common hazards being unwanted contact from sources attempting to collect personal information, internet hoaxes and fake news, bullying and offensive name-calling, and receiving unwanted sexual imagery — all of which were more prevalent in South Africa than the rest of the world,” says Kethan Parbhoo, Chief Marketing and Operations Office at Microsoft South Africa.


South African millennials and teenagers are most affected by online risks such as receiving offensive or obscene content, internet hoaxes and fake news, and bullying and offensive name-calling.

South African teenage girls suffer more than their global peers, with 68% reporting moderate to severe pain from online risks compared to 61% in the rest of the world. There has, however, been an increase in South African teens asking for help.


The level of risk exposure and their follow-on consequences was higher for girls than boys, the global study found. And although girls reported less confidence in dealing with risks, they took more mitigating actions following them.

There was also a higher incidence of South Africans being called offensive names, with 56% having experienced this as opposed to 51% globally.

Perhaps the biggest risk that emerged, though, was receiving unwanted and unsolicited sexual images or messages. Seventy-eight percent of South Africans have been sent these types of images or messages, which is markedly higher than the 67% global average.


In January 2017, Microsoft launched its inaugural Council for Digital Good with the long-term vision to assemble young people from various regions to create local and regional councils of Digital Civility Ambassadors to help raise awareness of digital safety and to offer insights to stakeholders from young people in each region.

Recently, Microsoft launched its African Council for Digital Good, as well as an Arab Council for Digital Good. After receiving applications from across the Middle East and Africa, 23 candidates were chosen to become ambassadors. Members of the African council will come together for the first time at the African Council Summit on February 23 and February 24 in Johannesburg.

Here, Microsoft will look to build their capacity and raise their awareness around topics relating to digital civility and internet safety, to better equip them to be ambassadors themselves. Following this, monthly virtual calls and webinars will be scheduled.

— Supplied.


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