Being a parent comes with an inherent desire to protect your child. Regardless of their age, you will always try your best to keep them safe. The fact of the matter is that South Africa has become a dangerous place for children and adults alike.
This above is escalated by smartphones as they can threaten children’s physical safety and emotional well-being. Most children have smartphones, and it is becoming increasingly common to see young toddlers glued to screens. Social media has become a popularity contest where self-esteem relies on the number of followers and likes amassed. This time-consuming activity can cause a lot of harm.
Let me tell you a story of a teenager, who accepted a friend request from a stranger. The boy was delighted by this strange lady’s beauty, and they started talking on the phone every day. The lady and the young boy would chat telephonically for hours on end. This turned for the worse when the boy rejected the lady’s requests for favours, like buying her airtime.
Next, the boy was approached by a person identifying himself as a Captain in the police. This was followed by accusations that the boy has been sexually harassing that same lady. Shocked and in severe trauma, this young man cried himself to sleep and had no idea what to do next.
The person pretending to be a police officer offered to make all of this disappear. For a price. This is when the young man finally and thankfully cried out to his parents who then enlisted the help of a legal professional. The father protested against the person pretending, vowing that they will have no part in bribery and corruption as his child was innocent. The man pretending to be a police officer then started to threaten all of their lives.
As per their legal representative’s advice, the family stayed put and put the Protection from Harassment Act to good use. According to the Act, “harassment” includes:
The direct and/or indirect act that either causes mental, psychological, physical or economic harm or inspires the victim to reasonably believe that harm may be caused to him/her by unreasonably following, watching, pursuing or accosting of the victim, loitering outside of or near the building or place where the victim or a related person resides, works, carries on business, studies or happens to be;
The verbal, electronic or any other communication directed at the victim by sending or delivering letters, faxes, packages, electronic mail or other objects to the victim or leaving them where they will be found;
Unwelcome explicit or implicit behaviour, suggestions, messages or remarks of a sexual nature that have the effect of offending, intimidating or humiliating the victim. The aforesaid actions would further make any reasonable person anticipate that the victim would find it offensive, humiliating or intimidating;
The implied or expressed promise of reward for taking part in a sexually oriented request;
The implied or expressed threat of punishment or actual punishment for the victim’s refusal to comply with a sexually oriented request.
In terms of the Act, a child/friend/teacher or relative may apply for a protection order without the parent’s consent. Usually one requires the “real names” or addresses of someone to apply for a protection order against them, however, in terms of the Act, one may approach the Clerk of the Magistrate’s Court using the contact number of the ‘fraudster’ and proof of harassment, in order for the Clerk to search the database of networks to obtain the RICA’d personal details of the harasser. You also have the right to open a criminal case against the harasser such as extortion or crimen injuria (wilful injury to someone’s dignity).
Let’s continue to build a safe place for our children and do everything in our power to protect their physical and emotional well-being. We have a duty as parents to stay vigilant and to inform our children of the dangers that lurk in the dark.
By Andries Cornelissen B. Proc, Practical Legal Training, Accredited and Certified Mediator, International Accredited and Certified Mediator London School of Mediation, Certified and Accredited Conflict Coach, Practicing Associate: The Association of Arbitrators, Certified and Accredited AHI Representative