The current generational set up is such that many children are much more tech savvy than their parents are and are able to navigate technology and the internet as a whole in ways their parents cannot keep up with. As such, these children are getting online and may face possible pitfalls while the parents remain clueless. In Kenya, there are 6 to 10 million children accessing the internet and we run the risk of exposing them to dangerous material online. Tech savvy criminals abound all over the internet.
Thankfully there is a lot of effort to raise aware ness about child online protection in Kenya and one of the organizations at the forefront of this is Communication Authority with the launch of their Child Online Safety initiative back in August. CA is urging everyone to be the cop and take their part in keeping our children safe through whatever means they can.
What are some of the dangers that these children face?
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.
Sexual abuse -There are adults out there 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.
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 men 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 dangers.
- 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. 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. Instill 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.
- Report cases by dialling the ChildLine number 116 to report cases of abuse including online cases.