Established in 2009, VirtueNet (in partnership with Watchdog New Zealand) is the first and only dedicated e-Safety organization dedicated to the protection of children online. Since inception, VirtueNet’s primary objective has been to create a safer internet in South Africa and we have, until now, worked exclusively with leading local Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s), Telco’s, the education sector and other NGO’s in the area of Parental Control / Web-Filtering technology, as well as being a technical advisor to the Film & Publications Board at the "Symposium for Combating Exposure of Children to Pornography". VirtueNet has also participated in various child online safety initiatives to create awareness to online dangers through schools and various local radio programmes, and other like-minded originations such as the world-renowned Focus on the Family (Africa).
Currently in South Africa, there remains no clear policy or legislation in existence to ensure that service providers or educational facilities (all of whom collectively provide internet access to millions of children) act responsibly by providing safe internet access to minors. As a result, this poses a great threat to the well-being of our children through repeated harmful exposure to violent, obscene, and explicit web content (much of which depicts degrading acts of excessive violence towards women), not to mention sexting, cyberbullying, predator grooming and other serious online threats. Due to the urgent need to provide an alternative interim online safety solution to the South African public, VirtueNet launched the first local home filtering service in 2010, which continues to protect numerous families across South Africa. This quickly evolved to the launch of SA’s first cloud-based web-filtering & cyberbullying / predator grooming prevention platform for schools which services hundreds of local schools based in urban and rural environments, leading to an exclusive partnership with Samsung South Africa to deliver a safe online experience on smartphones and tablets to both the education sector and consumer mobile customers.
VirtueNet also assists schools to play a vital role in creating a safer internet in Southern Africa by educating parents on the dangers of the internet and providing them with essential real-world advice & effective technology tools to protect their children online, whether on a home or school computer, tablet or mobile phone. VirtueNet not only provides answers to questions that “technically challenged” parents may have, we also reinforce this information by providing practical, innovative technology solutions that safeguard against ever-increasing online threats. We seek to bridge the knowledge and technology gap that exists among uninformed parents as well as providing practical, easy-to-use solutions that will ensure the online safety of children whether they are at school, home, or anywhere between.
We believe that it is important that parents are pro-actively engaged in ensuring the safety of their children in today’s digital world, thereby ensuring that they learn to become responsible digital citizens. For this reason, VirtueNet seeks to provide the correct technology tools for parents to effectively parent in the digital realm, however, protection technology is not in itself a replacement for good parenting. Based on our years of hands-on experience, we believe that talking alone without the necessary technology boundaries in place is not a complete or effective strategy for protecting children online. According to a recent report from UNICEF on Child Safety Online, parents generally “lack understanding of the internet and the role that it plays in children’s lives… they need to be made aware of the nature of risks and encouraged to improve their understanding of online activities”. Additionally, “building parents abilities is a vital component for online safety”. By both informing & equipping, VirtueNet helps schools to deal with this problem effectively using a dual approach.
With e-Learning fast becoming commonplace in education, many schools need guidance in order to adequately prepare themselves for e-Learning programmes that involve the management of student-owned mobile devices (BYOD) or school owned devices in a way that is both simple and practical to implement & manage. VirtueNet empowers schools to embrace these new challenges rather than avoid them, with proprietary technology that allows for school management of mobile devices (during school hours) & parental control (afterhours and on weekends). No other mobile device management solution is able to provide this truly unique benefit to parents as well to schools.
What truly sets VirtueNet apart from any other provider of “piecemeal” solution is our ability to bring together various best-of-breed child protection technologies into one single child-friendly ecosystem with seamless protection from start to finish. Our superior e-Safety technology is also “child-centric” in that it is designed specifically to meet the unique needs of both schools and parents with the sole purpose of protecting children. It has the capability and flexibility to satisfy even the most demanding school IT manager, while at the same time delivering the simplicity that any parent can understand. Many schools look to standalone web-security products in order to secure their school network only and fail to address the greater problem of responsible digital citizenship outside of the school or “off-network” protection that parents require when their child is outside of the school’s care.
If you are an educator, forget trying to use a “corporate” solution to protect a child, or using a “home” solution to protect your school. If you are a parent, you’ve no doubt tried a plethora of free “nanny-type” software that cannot adequately safeguard your child in a modern home that has numerous internet-capable devices such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart TV’s, gaming consoles and the list goes on… You’ve realized that such a task is not only difficult – it is almost impossible. It is here that VirtueNet sets the new benchmark by providing a truly unified solution that was unheard of just a few short years ago. The result - real protection for children, anytime, anywhere. This is the VirtueNet difference.