On Saturday I attended a rather insightful event organized by Intel and Lenovo at Radisson Blu Hotel Nairobi. The two companies were partnering to bring together hardware (Lenovo) and software (intel) to work together to make the elusive work life balance easier for busy women. All this is working towards Intel’s She Will Connect program that is geared towards empowering more and more women to be tech savvy and to be able to use this tech to empower themselves and improve their lives.This partnership comes hot on the heels of Intel’s partnership with JOYWO to train even more women in matters tech.
Saturday’s event was particularly geared towards the working mum and how she can optimize her time so that she does not disconnected from her family due to work. Lenovo showcased the Lenovo yoga series laptops – two in one devices that are engineered to fit into the busy woman’s life. The laptops are small enough to not be a burden to carry around, and powerful enough to get just about anything done because they will work as a laptop and as a tablet as well.
One thing that was discussed extensively and that caught my attention was the issue of child safety online. We know that technology has spread to many ages and now even children are using phones, tablets and laptops. Some own the gadgets and some are using the parents’ gadgets. One may argue that there is no escaping technology and that It is well and good to introduce kids to it but bear in mind that it can expose children to dangers. It is upto parents to guide their kids through it without being monster mums who hangs over her children’s shoulders.
What are some of the pitfalls that parents need to look out for when it comes to children and the internet?
Intel Education Project Manager East And Southern Africa Benson Kinoti gave quite a bit of education on this topic. Here is a bit of it, as well as some additional which I got from my own education.
Sexual abuse -There are adults in the dark web who prey on children, gain their trust and then go ahead and groom them for sexual abuse. Some even go ahead to organize to meet these kids. The adults will most likely be using false identities and they’ll be lying about their age but by the time the child discovers it may be too late for some.
Inappropriate content like pornography – Children will usually come across such content either deliberately from curiosity, or by mistake on unregulated sites. Other than pornography, children may access other hard core material like extreme violence which is too much for their young minds.
Ignoring age restrictions – a lot of websites have age restrictions alright but there isn’t much stopping under age kids from accessing them. Children may choose to overlook the age warning out of curiosity and peer pressure.
Sharing personal information – Things like free games, apps, and other such services will sometimes ask a child to fill out their details in order to access full benefits and children will fill them out innocently. Furthermore, many apps and social media networks will usually locate where a person is and the person will also reveal it themselves by using tags on say facebook or Instagram. Children may not fully grasp the dangers of this.
Being used to get information about parents – In some cases children are being used by fraudsters for identity theft where they’re used to get information about their parents. This they give away innocently after the fraudsters have gained their trust.
Cyber bullying – Bullying is one thing that can really wreak havoc on children’s wellbeing and self esteem as they’re growing up and unfortunately the internet is full of these people and they may get to children.
But parents are not entirely helpless on this and here are some things that they can do:
- Be accessible to your child so that you’re the first person they’ll come to in case they feel that something is not going right, eg when they’re threatened online or when there’s a sexual predator on their case.
- Be mindful about the gadgets you buy for children and at what age. Gadgets to enable normal communication will do but some people buy very high end ones and go ahead to offer unlimited internet access to children who are too young to comprehend the online danger
- Is your child very keen on deleting internet history? That could be a red flag as they could be hiding something. Feel free to check what your child is doing without being too overbearing as to drive them away. By Kenyan law, ‘Every child shall have the right to privacy subject to parental guidance’.
- Beware if your child is too vigilant on gadget safety measures using very complicated passwords and going to great lengths to never leave their phone even for a minute.
- If your child is spending extended periods locked up with the gadget, find out what they could be up to. Keep tabs on how they use their monetary allowance. They may be spending it all on airtime to buy bundles to stay online.
- Do not give children unlimited unsupervised access to your own phone. Cases have been heard of fraudsters tricking children into sending them money (M-Pesa) from their parents’ phones.
- Find out from someone in the know what software to install on the child’s phone or computer to enable parental controls.
- Empower your child. Instil general values in the him/her, work to improve their self-esteem and general virtues and ethics so they’re able to make credible decisions on their own when to keep off some forms of curiosity.
In conclusion, yes it is possible to balance between a busy work life and family and at the same time bring children up safely. it will just take a little more vigilance.