The sext debate: “I assume that he already knows the dangers.”

The Pretoria school sexting scandal has once again highlighted the dangers that modern technology can hold for children. PONTSHO PILANE asked parents how they manage their children’s technology use and access to the Internet.

sibongile sitholeSibongile Sithole, 31, cashier, Vryheid
My daughter is 15 years old and she does not have a phone. If I need to talk to her, I will call my father as she lives with my father. I don’t plan on buying her a phone any time soon because she doesn’t need one and I am also weary because of all these social media applications. I am scared that she will meet the wrong people on Facebook and share inappropriate pictures with them.

annanda hughesAnnanda Hughes, 46, entrepreneur, Pretoria
I have two daughters and in the beginning when they got their cellphones we did regulate their usage. However, now that they are older I do not see the need for that. I think trust is the most important thing and that is what helps. There is truly no way of fully regulating what they do on their computers and cellphones. I talk to my daughters and we have a very open relationship and it helps when it comes to things like how they use the Internet. Trust and open communication make the environment safe.

maria sitholeMaria Ntshabele*, 38, admin clerk, Soweto
My son is 15 and he just recently got a cellphone. He wanted a cellphone from the time he was 10 and his father and I refused because he was too young. The Internet is a wonderful place, but it can also be very strange and dangerous at times. I didn’t give him “the talk” when he got a smartphone, I assume that he already knows the dangers that may be there on the Internet. We also do not have restrictions on what he can do on it. I am very thankful I have sons, because I think the Internet is worse for girls than it is for boys.

allain mufulaAlain Mufula, 47, chemical engineer, Johannesburg
The mother of my children is the one who is responsible for regulating the children’s Internet usage. Our children are still quite young and so they will only use the Internet when they need it for homework and nothing else. I think it is important to protect children from using the Internet too early because it requires a lot of responsibility which children do not have until they are a bit older.

dr pamela dubePamela Dube, 47, dean of students, Johannesburg
I regulate my 12 year-old daughter’s Internet use. As a parent, you do not have a choice but to regulate. I cannot keep her away from the Internet because she has learnt how to do it at school and would like to use it for school as well. My main worry was what else she can access, beyond schoolwork. I sat her down and talked to her about the dangers of the Internet and I have been very direct. I don’t talk in innuendos and I also contextualise it for her so she understands where I am coming from. I worry, but when we as parents don’t leave children to discover things for themselves, we are doing them a great justice.

* Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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