SA educator announces a world-first to protect teens online: On Safer Internet Day!

“Kids are receiving devices younger, staying online longer and are exposed to more content, more strangers and more risks than ever before. And yet the school system hasn’t equipped them for modern digital life. That had to change.”

These are the words of an award-winning South African educator that has answered the call of school principals, teachers and parents globally to help bridge the technological and generational divide forged by social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Discord.

MySociaLife, the leading digital life skills, online safety and media literacy program for teens and pre-teens in South Africa, originated a new teen current affairs video show, OneLife, which will play in schools, either in life orientation classes or computer or technology classes. But their scoop was to use Generation Z (GenZ) to teach students injecting relatability into the education equation.

OneLife is a 22-minute social media current affairs video show with six short news segments, focused on recent flaming-hot issues like Fake News (a segment called ‘Outrageous Untruths’), Cybersecurity (‘Hacked Off’) or how to achieve digital potential (‘Explore and Excel’), among others. 

The show can either be played in class by teachers who download a lesson plan, or students will log in on their own devices and watch the show with a downloadable workbook, suited for grades 7-11. 

After five years of teaching digital citizenship to tens of thousands of students, parents, teachers, and counsellors, MySociaLife has witnessed the noticeable effects of social isolation and the shift to eLearning on adolescents. “Screen time is up dramatically. In the schools we have taught in, the number one lesson consistently requested by teens is mental health, and the second is attention and focus. What does that tell us? Students have been calling out for help from adults. It’s why we decided to create a show that would offer modern life skills but taught through the lens of social media,” says MySociaLife founder, Dean McCoubrey.

Decision-makers in education are largely in their thirties or older. These educators left school when Facebook was exploding a decade or more ago, and few can truly connect to a TikTok, BeReal, Instagram or Snapchat world. Moreover, with frenetic school lives, the majority of teachers simply could not follow the new and complex landscape of those under 18. Even millennials and GenZ see the digital landscape differently. 

Students demand an objective voice, not a teacher from the school, to unpack the latest sextortion tricks, cybersecurity hacks, privacy settings, critical thinking tips and more. This is where OneLife positions itself — a one-of-a-kind web show that presents fresh, regular and relevant content in a language that students understand, offering the experience of experts and creators that have grown up in the same world as the students and are especially well-versed in teaching important life skills.

“Social media exposure is costing many teens their mental health, attention and focus, planting dangerous seeds in their brains that are either too difficult to uproot or too difficult to process. This often leads them to become secretive, causing feelings of shame and guilt — the results of a harmful snowball effect that never ends. You have no idea what we hear from students — it’s frightening and very real,” says McCoubrey.

In 2021, MySociaLife was shortlisted as StartUp of Company of the Year at the GESS Education Awards in Dubai and also achieved Rising Star at the CIO Awards 2021 in Nairobi.

“OneLife is essentially not just a life skills coach but a digital life coach for the incoming generation of hopeful university applicants. A smart digital profile, clean of any reputation issues via hashtags and tags can change a life outcome for teens. We have seen continual examples of sad situations where social media comes back to bite you.” 

While OneLife is for teens, MySociaLife also offers a foundation 8-module life skills program for pre-teens between Grades 4 and 6. Reports indicate that a third of children aged 7-9, and half of tweens aged 10-12, use social media despite the 13+ age restriction on most social media platforms. MySociaLife ensures they know how to be safer and smarter online.

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