Online safety expert shares tips

Online safety expert Rianette Leibowitz addresses pupils at Groote Schuur High School.

A cyber wellness and online safety expert spoke to pupils at Groote Schuur High School last week on the dangers of social media, while sharing safety tips.

Rianette Leibowitz, an author, TV and podcast presenter, cyber safety agent and mother, addressed pupils in two sessions on the theme “Safe homes, Safe schools, Safe communities”, on Thursday March 19.

Ms Leibowitz covered a range of topics including using social media wisely; your online identity and digital footprint; exposure and risks; apps and gaming and cyber bullying.

Cyber wellness, she said, referred to how you had been impacted by social media and looked at how you spent your screen time. Ms Leibowitz said times were changing and it was important to adapt and keep up with technology.

“Lockdown changed the way people used social media, from schools offering online classes, to churches offering virtual services and gyms and personal trainers offering online classes in the comfort of your home.”

Ms Leibowitz cautioned pupils against sharing broadcast/chain messages without verifying the information, as this was the fastest way to spread fake news.

Speaking on one’s digital identity, she said, everything you did online created a digital footprint and it was up to the pupils to become responsible digital citizens.

“You have to take responsibility online. There are no rules on the internet but be aware that every time you click something online, it creates a digital effect from the stories you shared, to the updates you posted,“ she said.

Ms Leibowitz said pupils needed to be aware of what they were signing up for online and actually had to read the terms and conditions before signing up for apps or sites.

“When you ‘agree’ that is your digital signature which is legally binding. You need to know what the company, brand or app can do with your information,” she said.

When posting on apps such as TikTok and Instagram, Ms Leibowitz said pupils needed to take note of what they posted, where they posted, and what information they were giving away.

She also warned against posting in their school uniforms, saying this not only gave away their personal information which could help people track them but you were also tying yourself to the school and thus representing them.

As gaming was popular among the youth, she spoke on the importance of knowing who you were playing with, only playing with people you knew and managing game time, as this could become addictive.

She encouraged pupils to be more open with their parents about their online activities, to explain what apps they used and how these apps worked.

Ms Leibowitz said this would also help protect children online as parents could put safety measures or restrictions in place.