Cyberbullying on the rise in South Africa

PUBLISHED ON Smile 90.4FM ( 21 APRIL 2023


With the world now in full digital mode, cyberbullying has become increasingly more of a problem.

The days of getting bullied in class, receiving notes with hateful comments on them, and getting shoved into the locker, are slowly dying out.

noun: cyber-bullying
the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.

social media apps with notifications


South Africa is now the world’s most internet-addicted country. A recent report by Dalaware-based virtual private network platform Atlas VPN shows that South Africans spent at least 9.5 hours a day online in 2022.

An average person browsing the internet last year spent roughly six hours and 37mins online, that’s 20 minutes less than in 2021.

This means South Africans spend more than a third of their time online, and roughly three hours more than people worldwide.

Now you may be thinking, why South Africa? A “third world” country, depicted by the rest of the world as bushveld, safari’s and the big 5 just strolling down the street.

Well, in 2020 up to 70% of South Africa has access to the internet. This could be higher now given the speed at which internet access is branching out, not just in South Africa but countries across the African continent.

READ MORE: The Western Cape Education Department has launched an education awareness campaign about cyber-bullying.

In January 2023, Statista reported that the penetration rate of internet users in the country stood at 72.3% and 46% of them use social media.

More web access also increases the use of social media among young children who are legally not supposed to be active on these types of platforms under the age of 13 years (and WhatsApp only at the age of 16 years).

“With all that time spent online, it is no surprise that cyberbullying is on the increase in our country,” says Dr. Marlena Kruger, digital wellness expert, coach, founder of the Technolife Wise Foundation, and owner of MindUnique Education.

a long text message from whatsapp


Now back to the problem at hand. With all this newfound love for the internet and constant craving to always be online, problems are bound to arise.

READ MORE: Helplines in South Africa for bullying 

A survey of 200 South African parents done in February 2021, found that 51.5% of their children had been cyberbullied 54% had accessed inappropriate content via digital platforms. The survey also noted that it is likely that the data is underrepresented due to children’s reluctance to tell their parents about an attack they experienced, or they may be the perpetrator themselves.

“Cyberbullying is repeated and hurtful words and behaviour that occur online, using digital devices such as smartphones. It includes sharing negative or harmful content about someone on purpose.” – Dr Marlena Kruger

There have been multiple reports of suicide due to cyberbullying especially among young children and teenagers. This is why it is important for parents and guardians to constantly check on their children – especially teenagers – to make sure that they are safe online.

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