Online Safety

World Password Day 2023

World Password Day is observed on May 4 this year, and it is a day when people are reminded of the importance of strong passwords in protecting their online accounts. With the increase in cybercrime, it has become essential to secure our digital lives, and the first step towards achieving this is by having strong passwords. In this article, we will discuss the importance of password protection, the need for strong passwords, and tips for creating strong passwords.

Why is Password Protection Important?

Passwords are the primary line of defence against cybercriminals. They are the keys that unlock our online accounts, and if they are weak or compromised, our personal and financial information can be stolen. Password protection is essential because cybercrime is on the rise, and hackers are always looking for ways to steal our personal data. By using strong passwords and regularly changing them, we can make it difficult for hackers to gain access to our accounts.

Why Should We Have Strong Passwords?

The most common way that cybercriminals gain access to our accounts is by using brute force attacks. These attacks involve trying multiple combinations of usernames and passwords until they find the right one. If we use weak passwords, such as ‘12345’ or ‘password,’ it makes it easier for hackers to guess our passwords and gain access to our accounts. Therefore, it is essential to have strong passwords that are difficult to guess.

What Makes a Strong Password?

A strong password is a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. It should be at least 12 characters long and should not include any personal information such as your name or birthdate. Using a passphrase is also a great way to create a strong password. A passphrase is a sequence of words that are easy to remember but difficult for others to guess. For example, ‘correct horse battery staple’ is a strong password that is easy to remember.

Password Managing Apps

One of the challenges of having strong passwords is remembering them. It is not practical to have different passwords for all our accounts and remember them all. This is where password-managing apps come in. These apps store all our passwords in an encrypted format, making them difficult for hackers to steal. They also generate strong passwords for us and can autofill login forms, making it easier to access our accounts. Some popular password-managing apps include LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password.

Top 5 Tips for Setting a Strong Password

  1. Use a passphrase: Instead of using a single word as your password, use a passphrase. A passphrase is a sequence of words that are easy to remember but difficult for others to guess.
  2. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters: A strong password should have a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  3. Use different passwords for each account: Do not use the same password for all your accounts. If a hacker gains access to one of your accounts, they will have access to all your accounts if you use the same password.
  4. Avoid personal information: Do not use personal information such as your name, birth date, or address as your password.
  5. Use a password manager: Use a password manager to store all your passwords in an encrypted format. This will make it easier to remember your passwords and make them difficult for hackers to steal.

World Password Day is a reminder that password protection is essential in protecting our online accounts. Using strong passwords and regularly changing them can make it difficult for hackers to gain access to our accounts. It is also essential to use different passwords for each account and to avoid using personal information in our passwords. By following these tips, we can secure our digital lives and protect ourselves from cybercrime.

How to Protect Your Children From Online Gaming Fraud

Online gaming fraud is real — and children and teens are at the most risk!

MySociaLife founder, Dean McCoubrey, recently did an interview unpacking the recent increase in children falling victim to online gaming fraud and what parents can do about it. He details everything you need to know to protect your child and ensure their games stay a safe and fun space for them to explore.

You can read the complete interview here!

1. What are the dangers of letting your children game unsupervised?

Many adults (who don’t game) see it as child’s play, a space where teens and pre-teens spend their time. They also overlook that girls are increasingly keen gamers too. However, they fail to see the extent of adult players and the sheer size of the e-sports industry.

For this reason, children who game unsupervised are roaming these spaces among adults with various motivations — some gamers just want to game, while others want to make contact, ask for images, verbally abuse, or defraud.

When we understand the diversity of users on social media and games and consider why they might be on the platform, we can immediately be more security conscious. 

2. Why are more children falling victim to gaming fraud?

The pandemic saw more people stuck indoors or at home and an increase in screen time. This drew more people to online entertainment and escapism during a tough time around the world. In addition, younger children have been accessing games and social media — the barriers came down a little, to some degree.

These factors mean that, yes, more children (teens and pre-teens) are experiencing more online safety issues, not just fraud, than pre-pandemic. Education hasn’t caught up with the tools to inform learners of the wide array of risks and safety tools that need to be employed.

That’s what we do at MySociaLife — we teach 8 lessons in schools to kids aged 8-17 to be safer and smarter online. 

3. What are the most common ways in which children fall victim to online gaming fraud? 

Gamers are attracted to mods, skins, weapons, and tokens to improve their gameplay. It’s more interesting, it’s cooler, and it’s more powerful for the gamer which makes it an attractive proposition.

Fraudsters use the clickbait of an amazing offer to get you to click and buy something, leaving the game and sharing your bank card details. Or adding a username and password to a website that looks slick but is really just a ‘front’ to trick you into revealing your valuable password — one that might also open your other accounts like social media. 

If the fraudster takes over your gaming or social accounts, you can then be bribed to get them back, or they can damage your reputation by using the account to post negative content while still in your name. 

4. Tips to prevent children from falling victim to online gaming fraud

  1. Don’t click on links in emails that get sent to you. Spam has become very good at looking real. It’s hard to detect so exercise hyper caution as a standard. 
  2. Whatever you download could have malware (updates, games, etc.), so be sure you know the source. This will require a number of tests and checks. Not just looking at how the email looks or who it’s from. Only use official websites and not third-party websites when buying or downloading. 
  3. If the offer looks too good to be true, it likely isn’t! It’s clickbait! 
  4. Use a robust password of at least 12 characters with numbers and punctuation, but don’t make it easy. 
  5. Use Two Factor Authentication (2FA) to protect your account. No one should get into your account unless they go through secure gateways — one on a console and one on your phone, for example. 
  6. You mostly don’t know who you’re playing with despite what name they use or the avatar on screen. You need to see if the player is indeed someone who is a child on screen, matched to a voice, and then consistently check that the person aligns with your expectations as a gaming partner for your child (swearing, kindness, etc). In addition, persuading kids to share details or passwords while playing games with them, having built their trust, is a tactic to gain access to gamer accounts. 
  7. Use the safety settings offered by the game and work through them slowly. Google the settings if you don’t know how to find them or set them up. Someone will have prepared a settings guide already. 
  8. For young kids, chat is not a good option. They should only play the game and enjoy it on those merits ideally, as they are not equipped to recognize the online safety risks. 


Beyond fraud, issues like cyberbullying are real and can be just as harmful, although not financially. Privacy and how much data or info you are sharing are equally important — or you can be targeted with content or offers that may be inappropriate, or accounts are created which impersonate you based on how much info you share in public. 

[Article written by Havana Dauncey]

Online Safety Index highlights SA kids’ vulnerability

Child Online Safety Index 2020

South Africa’s children are the second most likely in the world to be exposed to risky content, including violent or sexual content, second only to Thailand.

This is according to the DQ Institute’s 2020 Child Online Safety Index (COSI) which helps nations better understand their children’s online safety status 

The COSI also notes that South African children are among those greatest at risk of cyberbullying, for establishing risky contacts online, and for putting their reputations at risk online. This is despite low levels of mobile device ownership, likely exacerbated by low levels of parental guidance and online safety education, and relatively low access to the internet, compared to the other 30 developed and developing countries reviewed in the research.

One of the platforms most popular among children and teens is TikTok, a short-form video-sharing app that lets users create and share short videos with soundtracks on any topic of their choice, that loops when it’s finished. It has approximately one billion active users worldwide, with one-third of its users being between the ages of 10 and 19, with The Verge recently highlighting that children spend an average of 80 minutes per day on the platform.

“Children love how there’s so much happening in TikTok videos – there’s sound, and action, and insights into other people’s lives – particularly appealing during the pandemic, when social interaction has been limited,” says Dean McCoubrey, founder of MySociaLife, a South African in-school Digital Life Skills Program teaching digital life skills program for schools.

“The speed of the TikTok feed appeals to kids’ love of intensity – loud music, bright lights, something new every couple of seconds – but this level of information density may lead to addiction, bullying, and impaired mental health, while the platform’s lack of restrictions on how can join and post content meaning that strangers can easily engage with children, without their parents’ knowledge, and embark on malicious relationships with them,” he adds.

This is why it’s vital that parents, teachers and counsellors find out what content the children in their care are consuming, and that they navigate each platform’s privacy and security features to ‘lock up the doors and windows of their children’s digital houses’.

“Keeping kids off online platforms is simply no longer a possibility, so the best we can do is to teach our children about choice and responsibility – two of the key themes in MySociaLife’s online, blended, and face to face programmes offered to South African schools,” he says.

McCoubrey highlights that TikTok recently launched a Family Safety Toolkit, developed in partnership with the DQ Institute, which incorporates the DQ Framework, the world’s first global standard related to digital literacy, skills, and readiness.  

The toolkit offers parents a list of digital tips they can refer to when setting guidelines for their children’s TikTok use, and includes suggestions like checking the child’s tech readiness, agreeing on family tech boundaries, setting smart limits on screen time, and having regular open and honest conversations about cyber-bullying. 

Discussions about privacy, risky content and contacts, sexting, disinformation, and the importance of support networks will also help children navigate their way safely around TikTok, and other social media platforms.

“Teens and pre-teens have so much more to deal with than their parents could ever have imagined, which is why it’s important to equip them with the tools they need to navigate their way around the online world,” explains McCoubrey.

“Teaching them critical thinking, understanding the impacts of cyberbullying, and empathy, along with how to adopt a healthy digital identity are all essential steps for them learning how to embrace technology and use it safely, how to explore it without fear, and even to use it as a means for good.”

Equipping teens and tweens with awareness of online issues – on TikTok and on any other digital platform – helps them respond more positively and make better choices, whether or not their parents are watching.


Notes to Editor: About MySociaLife Delivering an 8-module ‘Digital Citizenship Curriculum’, via webinar or Learning Management System, to Grade 4 to 11 learners in South African Schools, MySociaLife is the leading Digital Life Skills Program in the country. The Program has unmatched efficacy (data) with regards to student impact and behavioural change from the extensive modules which include: critical thinking, cyberbullying and empathy, sexuality online, a digital values system, privacy and security, mental health and resilience, and screen time addiction. End goal? Safer, smarter kids online – who will be able to explore and excel way beyond their peers as we slipstream into the highly competitive and demanding Fourth Industrial Revolution. Click here,

Additional training kits for parents (links)

Media literacy. DTRT.

Do you know what LMIRL stands for in a WhatsApp or text? How about WTTP? Or PIR? The answers are “Let’s Meet In Real Life’ ‘Want To Trade Pictures?’ and ‘Parent in Room’.

Smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, PCs and laptops, LTE, 5G, and WiFi have meant explosive access to the internet, especially for kids, who just a decade or so earlier wouldn’t have enjoyed such exposure or reach. But as each one stepped into the world wide web, who provided them with a guide, or an understanding of the vast landscape of media, influence, opportunity and risk that comes with consuming stories? Dependent on household income, teens and pre-teens will access devices at different ages, but I would hazard that only a tiny minority are educated at ‘inception’ about what it means to be media literate and online savvy. 

MySociaLife teaches digital citizenship, online safety and media literacy to almost 4000 students a year and we teach them 8 modules be delivering these modules online or in person, term-after-term, over a year (ie resulting in 32000 learners or ‘seats’). We also teach their parents, their teachers, mental health professionals and GPs in South Africa, now in the thousands. We have requests for our Program from schools in China, Australia and Canada already which are in discussion. We have started teaching large corporates simply because business leaders are concerned that their vast workforce may not be media literal digital citizens and could drag their brand into reputational harm. As Warren Buffett wisely imparted, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

For the grownups, we can feel a little less sympathy, because it is understood that adults need to self-educate if we want to take control of our lives. By the time we reach adulthood, we (ideally) grasp that the future lies in our hands. But for teens and pre-teens, we cannot hold the same expectation. Adolescence is about being educated if you are fortunate enough, but then forgetting or ignoring the lessons, and then making the mistakes enough times or failing the tests to later force absorption of the teaching and bring about change. 

But what happens when our kids are not taught about life online and so do not even have the basic information and tools to manage the complexity of privacy, security, identity, sexuality, mental health, reputation on this high-speed train of transient content? 

We have the answer to this question. We are frequently dumbfounded by what we hear around South Africa from teenagers who reveal the extent of the challenges within social media and other aspects of their dynamic and exciting life online. We hear of ‘sextortion’ rackets in which teens are persuaded to share naked images and then bribed for money or more pictures, we see identity theft in which a Grade 10 loses her entire account of 1450 friends, with the cybercriminal casually approaching and later threatening the student’s sister and mother. We see incidents of ‘catfishing’ in which adults pretend to be to kids to approach them, or boys pretend to be attractive young girls to try and get sexts from them. Our work in schools offers a privileged vantage point and our unique differentiator is that we are good listeners. 

Armed with this knowledge of where our kids find themselves, how should we help them in the form of a solution?

Kobus van Wyk, The CEO of ADESSA (Associated Distributors of Educational Supplies in Southern Africa) proposed this to me in a recent Zoom call. He holds up a pencil and says that decades ago we were taught how to hold it between thumb and forefinger. When we hold a pencil like a lollipop it doesn’t function optimally, and normally attracts attention from others with critical comments. Van Wyk believes we need to attend to smart device and app education with similar vigour and attention from early stages in school. But, moreover, what we do with that pencil – the power of our words to help or harm – is also equally important, but less talked about. 

In a world of comparison on social media, we would see a different society if we were taught to employ empathy and choose our words wisely. Digital citizenship is a multi-dimensional curriculum guiding learners to be responsible online. Media literacy has been defined as “being able to access, analyze, and evaluate information, which we receive through media. Being media literate means being able to create media messages and to use the technology tools available to us. It means being able to think critically and speak confidently.”

If you have seen any of the well-known movies like The Great Hack or The Social Dilemma on Netflix, these reveal an important truth about where we find ourselves – we are mere pawns in the attention economy, where monolithic social and technology platforms fight for our time online because time means ad placements, and that results in income and happy shareholder value. These media masters have worked out what humans want – photos, moving images, bold headlines, sensationalism – which is not that new, but the novelty lies in the algorithms that collect our data and serve us more of what we like and want, or what outrages us, to keep us online. 

In these movies, their failing was that none of them delves deep enough into the impact on our impressionable kids. Media always had influence, but now it’s on another level. The Social Dilemma worked so well because it used the senior product developers of these platforms to admit to the fact that social media is not what they hoped it would b and reveal the darker side of corporate greed and competition. However, it failed to show how the tentacles that stem from this reach out and touch our kids in many ways, eroding self-esteem, exacerbating mental health challenges, and putting teenagers at risk.

In 2020 we have almost 4.5bn humans online, of which almost 4bn are on mobile devices. TikTok has had, prior to a recent ban in India, 800m monthly users, of which 40% were teenagers. That’s power. And I have to say that MySociaLife has been surprised by the dynamic activism of this generation possessing an unapologetic, vocal unwillingness to tolerate some of the irresponsible behaviour of the generations before them – climate change, #MeToo and #BLM. It’s no longer a case of “kids should be seen and not heard.” These adolescents believe that they have a right to impart their perspective and (often naive) wisdom because this planet and this multicultural diversity will indeed be theirs, and their children’s, to manage. In that event, it appears that South Africa should have done a much better job in educating our 12 million school-going learners to prepare and ready them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These kids are the future of work. They are our future workers.

But education hasn’t happened for a number of reasons. In some parts of the country, we cannot even get basic literacy right. We have a long way to go. Government’s mindset is to provide tablets to reach 4IR goals, and not provide foundational education in how to use the tablets for good, for change, for success. They are interested in what we teach in our Program but it’s long-winded and complicated to adopt the curriculum. We aren’t holding our breath.

It’s hard for adults to actually get it. They also consume content rather obliviously and lack the sufficient critical thinking skills expected of an older and wiser generation to question the authenticity of the text, images and captions that they are presented with. There’s no secret that many media titles and outlets lean to one side or another, to left or right, or far left or far right. In fact, a recent infographic painted a unique picture of the somewhat transparent bias within a number of the world’s most popular news outlets. 

In fact, this Is arguably the first time in history that an area of popular culture is being navigated by the child and the parent at the same. Everyone is learning on the job. 

So, there is only one solution and that is to get the ball rolling. Education leaders need to do a much better job of intervention. There is so much to gain through digital citizenship, media literacy, and critical thinking training simply because of the sheer volume of screen time and the diversity of touchpoints and devices which will not abate – teenagers are consuming one hour more media every year. And as they do this, the meaningful connections and moments in their lives, the key minutes and hours of face-to-face contact and sharing of values is starting to dwindle. 

Digital identity, critical thinking, media literacy and fake news, privacy and cybersecurity, digital footprint and reputation, sexuality online, empathy, mind health and resilience – these are what we teach, and the students love it. This is square in their ballpark, but we reveal the corners they haven’t visited – the dark and the light, and share skills that may last them a lifetime and change the way they see technology, the internet, devices and social media. For better and for worse. It’s time for the government and education leaders to DTRT. Do The Right Thing.

Safer Internet Day 2021: Learners struggling during the pandemic

More time online, less education, a problem for SA’s teens

Safer Internet Day is being celebrated in South Africa on Tuesday, February 9th, with the theme of bringing various stakeholders ‘Together For A Better Internet’. Humanity is at its most advanced point of access to smart technology, data, games, apps and social media platforms, which has accelerated many industries – like eCommerce, e-learning and streaming entertainment – by three to five years. But with so much additional time in lockdown, and out of schools, due to the pandemic, there remains a gaping hole in digital education to guide and protect kids online, some of whom are using devices for many more hours than they were a year ago.

South Africa’s leading Digital Life Skills expert, Dean McCoubrey from MySociaLife, questions whether education is doing all that it can.

He says, “Together for a better internet can be achievable if government and regulators work together with platforms to educate and protect children. But this is not even happening in most developed countries. The power of social platforms, and the failure to educate in digital citizenship, has placed the responsibility solely in the lap of parents, teachers, students, counsellors and mental health professionals to understand the extent of what children have to cope with and manage online, exacerbated by COVID-19. “Technology’s growth will not relent. Kids are using the internet more than ever before, so we will need to understand what they’re engaging with to support them.”

According to the App Annie Sate of Mobile Report 2021, casual games dominate downloads with the popularity of easy-to-use names like Among Us, ROBLOX and My Talking Tom Friends. Mobile gaming is on track to surpass $120 billion in consumer spending in 2021 — capturing 1.5x of the market compared to all other gaming platforms combined. Social media app, TikTok, with over 1.6bn downloads and 800m monthly active users sees over 1 billion video views per day.

McCoubrey believes in the power of technology and the positive benefits it can bring to our children’s digital potential, but he remarks that this can largely only be achieved when we provide them with an honest, relatable and balanced view of the prizes and pitfalls which exist in their life online. “We can show children more doors of opportunity after showing them how to become safer and smarter kids online. It leads to learning new skills, exploration and then excellence. It’s an opportunity for Africa to embrace digital literacy early.”

He adds, “For adults right now there is an overwhelming workload, as well as financial and health pressure at this time, but we will have to take ownership of the fact that we expect learners to navigate these complex devices and social media platforms, without providing them with a guide to navigate the content – and their emotional responses. It’s IQ meets EQ in a digital realm: DQ, or digital quotient.”

MySociaLife is an online life skills and digital citizenship program which operates in South African schools and provides an 8-module digital curriculum for Grade 4 to 11 students. The subjects covered include critical thinking, cyberbullying, digital identity, privacy, security, digital footprint (reputation), sexuality online and digital potential. The video is taught in schools via logging into a web-based learning management system (LMS) or also by instructors via webinars to students anywhere in the country.

McCoubrey adds that some of the schools he works with asked their students which of the 8 modules of the MySociaLIfe program they would first choose during lockdown, and 31% of the 265 respondents said mental health would be their first choice, while maintaining focus and attention would be their second preference at 22%, accounting for more than 50% of all feedback. “A lot is going on in kids’ lives, they are missing human interaction and engagement, and are exposed to a stream of negative news – understandably many choose to escape inside social media and games.”

Kids look incredibly competent online when they are using these devices and these platforms. But we can forget that, as human beings, we hide certain aspects of emotional distress, confusion, concern, or fear and anxiety, to avoid embarrassment because we experience shame or feel anxious and insecure.

“This makes it incredibly difficult for educators and parents to deduce if something a child has experienced online is indeed troubling them. That is why we need to equip these kids with coping tools and critical thinking skills to first avoid some of these risks. And secondly, to be able to apply coping and management skills to navigate this complexity, which includes communicating with parents. Safer Internet Day is incredibly important to raise awareness of what needs to be done to protect our kids. However, to truly achieve that goal, we have to accept that making the internet a better place can only be achieved in shared responsibility between our learners, our parents, our students, our mental health professionals, and of course, social media platforms, regulators and government. We have to be realistic that the latter will take time. In other words, it’s up to us – it takes a village to raise a child,” he concludes.

A suicide goes viral on social media: Suicide Prevention Day

Suicide goes viral on social media

Thursday, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) around the world, organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), and co-sponsor World Health Organisation (WHO).  

This year, however, we find ourselves within a different context, trying to emerge from various levels of lockdown and re-establish society and community in stabilising healthy daily activities. In schools, students have either been unable to enjoy the regular routine of attending class or, those with access to devices and data, have found themselves experiencing an increase of several hours a day of online learning. With increased screen times comes increased exposure and influence. A 33-year-old American man committed suicide on social media, and while platforms tried to contain the virality in recent days by blocking access to the video, platform users had repurposed the video in other formats and published into multiple channels, including teen app sensations, TikTok and Instagram. Schools in South Africa have issued warnings of the video to parents over the last few days.

A simple Google search shows the frequency of social media virality around suicide including hashtags that allow users to share their darkest fears and emotional turmoil publicly, with other users commenting. The obsessive usage of these platforms means that teens and pre-teens can be exposed to graphic, violent, or explicit sexual imagery, which disturbs some individuals and causes a response that may vary from anxiety to anger, to sadness, to shame. The most important revelation, according to Dean McCoubrey, the Founder of MySociaLife, the South African online safety and social media program operating in schools, is that “as many as a third of students will not discuss what they have seen or what troubles them online with their parents for fear of punishment or the removal of their device, which gives them access to entertainment, socialising, and games. This is echoed by a 2017 Vodafone survey in 13 countries, meaning that this is not exclusive to South Africa.” 

Suicide shouldn’t be a secret – people understandably think about it, especially if it is in the news or social media, without necessarily having the intent to act upon it. Often there is curiosity which opens up an opportunity to discuss or share helplines if students aren’t ready to talk to their parents for any reason. Suicide is often the result of enduring a longstanding illness, such as depression, and that if provided with the opportunity to get help, many people are able to recover from depression, and no longer have suicidal thoughts or desires. 

MySociaLife teaches thousands of students a year about online safety and social media and assumes “a rare vantage point because we teach eight lessons around digital life skills, and this creates a platform for many students to tell us about the reality of their life online”. This interaction allows the training program to track the latest apps, hoaxes, trends, language, and seeks to bridge the generational and technological divide that has arisen from a generation which received devices or social media access in the same decade as their parents. “This divide has made it difficult for adults. How can they grasp digital identity, privacy, latest apps, mental health, digital footprint, bullying, unless they work inside these moving currents on a daily basis? Parents, teachers, counsellors, and mental health professionals are struggling to understand the landscape and therefore the context of what is happening in teenager’s lives, or what to look out for. To make matters worse, these exposures can be kept largely hidden,” he adds. 

McCoubrey advises parents not to be fooled by the apparent confidence or ‘tech-savvy’ of a teen or pre-teen, given their emotional maturity, and offers six tips:

  1. Parents need to stay abreast of the trends and hoaxes online and either self educate on Google, or ask their school for expert training from educators like MySociaLife
  2. While many teens don’t enjoy probing questions, check-in on what’s interesting online – the highs and lows, or what’s being talked about – and monitor their reactions. But be conscious of your own anxiety rising and how you appear in this conversation.
  3. Provide the safety that their online concerns can be talked about, without taking the device away as punishment if they reveal something that is shocking to you. This may not be their fault that they witnessed something online
  4. Look for changes in their behaviour around sleep, mood, anxiety, their friend group, or school work
  5. Seek professional help as soon as possible, via your health care provider or professional suicide helplines, listed below
  6. Request schools to educate their staff around the latest viral dangers – given the time spent at school – to share the support function and education of students

“MySociaLife now teaches the child psychiatry units in hospitals, and speaks at GP conferences, because this is such a complicated world to understand that even medical practitioners need advice and insight to grasp the nuances within this technological landscape.” “In this instance, curiosity can get the better of kids. And all it takes is to scroll past these graphic visuals and watch something. And then it’s very difficult to get this out of the mind, which can lead to secrecy, shame, embarrassment, and fear. Our kids need non-judgmental support. We do need to accept that most parents have given these devices and data or WiFi connection and schools are using these for learning. Adults had not fully grasped the window into a vast world (of all ages) that it would provide, resulting in positive and negative outcomes.”  At MySociaLife, we have a simple motto, says McCoubrey, “Safer kids can be smarter, and then excel online. But they will need facilitators that are ‘on the pulse’, objective and highly experienced.”

Wondering how to keep your kids safe and smart online?

Founder of MySociaLife, Dean McCoubrey recently had an interview with author and educator, Josh Ochs from in Los Angeles 🙂

We at MySociaLife, have watched Josh for years, and he is pure class, a superb ‘app safety’ reviewer, and his sweet spot is on helping kids to be safe and smart (just like MySociaLife) but also to be “light, bright and polite” – guiding them to build a compelling digital footprint, and set themselves apart online.

Why work for years and years at school to apply for tertiary education, and fall down at the last hurdle – at the application stage – through a rogue digital footprint on Google and social media? This is something really playing for… It’s potentially life-changing.

Listen to the interview HERE

The TikTok #skullbreaker challenge is dangerous.

In an era of fake news and Momo Hoaxes it can be hard to work out what to be worried about, or where the real danger lies.

The #TikTok #SkullBreaker Challenge is dangerous for sure. While many concerns or fears online may sometimes amount to very little – pranksters at play – no child can be sure of the way they fall, or land on the ground. In this instance, the power of choice is taken away from the individual, they are set up for a fall (literally) and will only find out the repercussions after they land.
This challenge involves one person jumping, who is then tripped by two others on either side. The result is the ‘willing’ victim falling flat on their back.

If you search for the story there are a number of instances in which kids have been injured and ended up in hospital, blacking out, but understandably the risks are around skull fracture, neck fracture, concussion, bleeding in or around the brain, loss of consciousness, paralysis, and death. There have reports of fatalities from this, but in my view, we all need to source real facts rather than listen to media headlines unless we have the first hand or primary record. These days there is way too much fake news and it makes it hard for kids to discern what’s real or not. MySociaLife teaches that – critical thinking and the ways in which to assess what is true or not – in our 8-lesson digital life skills program in schools.

By accessing a program like ours at MySociaLife, parents can learn how to educate their kids and take them through it, explaining how easy it is for a challenge of that kind to go wrong and how it can impact everyone, not just the victim, or themselves but the family too. There are far reaching implications of someone getting hurt. And it’s worthwhile taking an interest in their lives online, finding out more about what they are browsing and searching and talking to them, but not from a lofty place but from a position of coaching and mentoring. Kids feel like they know more than adults online and so it needs to be a two-way conversation (for the most part) to make headway. Our Program reaches all the important audiences – we teach parents, teachers and school counselors – and they all report how hard it is to understand this digital world their kids inhabit, and so we guide the adults AND the students via our in-school presentations. People can find us at or on social @MySociaLifeSA

Interestingly, this also has the double impact of physical pain and emotion pain of the embarrassment too, of the video is shared against your will. Often in social media, it’s largely a mental or emotional hurt but this time it can be more than that – physical.

I can say that the skullbreaker is being discussed in the schools we teach, not just by us, but by their Principals and teachers, so the news is out. The hard part is making students understand how easily a prank of this kind can go wrong, with serious consequences. It can come across that we are just cautious adults who”don’t get it”, but this is a challenge that is evidently harmful #IRL (In Real Life) and not just virtually. It’s visible and fact based.

Safer Internet Day empowers youth to make smarter online decisions

Celebrated annually, Safer Internet Day takes place on Tuesday, 11 February 2020 and South Africa’s leading online safety Program in schools, MySociaLife, has partnered with the world’s global Safer Internet Day organisation to highlight bullying, harmful conduct, illegal online activity, and help give young people the tools they need to empower themselves online in South Africa.

Few young learners have been given any formal education and training.

“With more than 22 millions South Africans on Facebook, 8 million on Instagram and 5 million now on teen hype-app, TikTok, there is a vast number of adults and children exploring social media apps, and yet very few young learners have been given any formal education and training,” says Dean McCoubrey, founder of MySociaLife, a South African in-school ‘Digital Life Skills Program’ teaching digital life skills program for schools.

He adds that mobile devices boomed in 2007 and that children and adults alike understandably picked them up with a feverish appetite. “There were no manuals or guidebooks, and no warnings about how they could impact mental or physical health. Technology companies do not relent either, taking advantage of our collective obsession with our phones.  Research conducted by Kleiner Perkins in 2017, revealed a Research & Development investment of over R1.5trillion ($100bn) by five of the biggest brands in the world. “The competition for our attention, our clicks, and our money, is fierce,” McCoubrey states.

Safer Internet Day started in 2012 when parents, teachers and others working with young people realised that the time had come to help guide them around the possibilities and pitfalls of the Internet.

“Technology is truly amazing for entertainment, education and connection, but there are many complexities that come with the constant quest for more followers, likes and online admiration,” McCoubrey says. “We need the critical thinking skills to be able to see through the various risks that come with social media – trolling, flaming, sexting, chat forums, privacy, as a few examples – or our kids can find themselves in vulnerable and fearful situations – a reason anxiety has spiked in the last decade.

What can parents, teachers and young people do to make the Internet a safer place to have fun, engage, and share their content? MySociaLife recommends four simple steps, along with turning to trusted online resources for advice:

  • Protect your privacy and security – there are approximately 4 billion people online globally, so private accounts ensure you minimise contact with unwanted strangers who connect via public social media accounts.
  • Check the privacy settings on the device itself, and on all the platforms where you’re active. Scroll through the settings and lock down the areas you don’t want open.
  • By chasing followers and sharing posts publicly, more and more people will have their own opinions on what you have to say and show – and may disagree or criticise. To limit criticism, we need to limit who we share our posts with, or prepare ourselves for unexpected feedback and unwanted messages. Many kids do not think this through.
  • Be cautious of ‘clickbait’ – bold headlines and stories that ask you to share your information, sometimes asking for credit card details. Avoid being scammed by only sharing payment information on trusted sites – after you’ve discussed the transaction with your parents.

At the age when teens are faced with these complex issues, their prefrontal cortex – which controls planning, decision-making, and self-control isn’t developed enough to make the best decisions, and so they are literally “hot on the button”. To survive online, they need someone to equip them with insights, data, video and case studies that all promote the critical thinking – a small moment to consider their options – to help them see when a potentially dangerous situation pops-up.

“Values and guidelines need to be translated into an online context, we need to explain carefully what our expectations are when we are online. Safer Internet Day is the perfect opportunity to remind tweens and teens that even though the Internet makes it possible to be anonymous, test other aspects of their personality, and be more risky, most of them wouldn’t swear like that at home, or bully someone face-to-face, or speak to a stranger in a shopping mall. And yet, so many kids do these things, getting into trouble with the law, and affecting their own future, their family, and even putting themselves at risk.”

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