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How Safe Is Your Child Online? Be The Cop

by Laura Wambi Arina
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Growing up, you would get a thorough lashing on your backside or a hot scolding (if your mother was in a good mood) for talking or receiving something from a stranger. We were seriously warned against engaging with people we did not know and we steered clear of them, because it was made clear to us that it was not about not doing it for fear of punishment, but for our own safety. And we were safe.

Today however, with the evolution of technology and the internet, the dangers that children face have become more than just a strange person calling out to them with the promise to give them sweets and chocolates. You will agree with me that unlike the olden days where the only form of technology you knew was that one monochrome television set owned by the village’s chief where you would all gather to watch important events, children today get exposed to technology at a very early stage of their lives. Children have gotten pretty good with electronic gadgets, that some of them are even buying stuff off online shopping sites. One recently used his father’s iPad to buy a car!

As a parent/guardian/sane adult, you need to be wary of how kids use the internet because it is a place where anybody can be anything they like- a CEO of their own (non-existent) company, the kibanda hotel guy can be a top chef at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, a person that went as far as Class 2 in real life, can be a PhD holder from a world-class university. That is the internet for you. It is roaming with kidnappers and paedophiles and all kinds of evil people.

This is the reason why the Communications Authority of Kenya, in partnership with other child-related organizations, recently launched a campaign dubbed ‘Be The Cop’, that aims to create awareness on cyber crimes by stressing on the role of parents, guardians and other adults in maintaining child online safety.

Kids need to be guided and directed into the right path, and leaving them to do their activities online without supervision or regulation, may result into these:

Accessing Inappropriate Content
There are thousands of sites that have content that is inappropriate for kids, mostly pornographic sites.

Exposure to strangers and criminals that use the internet to commit crime
There are cases every day of child rape, kidnaps and duping. Kids are very vulnerable, and letting them access the internet as they please exposes them to strangers, and criminals looking to lure them into their traps.

May lead to misconduct
Your kids could pick a thing or two from the internet that may lead to them portraying negative behaviour like talking back, stealing, bullying their friends in school and despising other people because the internet has tonnes of sites and videos that glorify such kind of misconduct.

How To Ensure that Your Child is Safe Online

Talk to them about being safe online.
Have a conversation with your child about the dangers that they face while being online and give them the do’s and don’ts of being online. Constantly remind them not to encourage contact with people they do not know online.

Be present as they are online.
Have a look at what sites your child accesses while she/he is on the internet. Be aware of the people they talk to online. Encourage them to visit sites that are educational and meant for kids.

Keep your electronics in a public area.
Computers, laptops and phones at home should be kept in places that are public, where there is high traffic like the living room and the kitchen. This keeps in check the temptation to go to sites that are not for them. Use an open door policy if you have to.

Use parental control settings to block unwanted sites.
Most browsers come with the setting to block sites that you do not want your kids to access. Use these settings to ensure that such sites are blocked and that your child cannot access them even if they wanted to.

Review their browsing history
You cannot be with your kids twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, to monitor what they are doing online. Go through their browsing history to see what they have been up to and to do some housekeeping where necessary.

Keep a child safe today. Be the cop and prevent cyber crime.

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