Everyday, something new is posted online and it’s hard to quantify the level of children’s exposure to adult content, but the reality is that it is on the rise.
Cyberbullying is also listed as a major contributor to increased case of children getting lost mysteriously.
More than four years ago, the Communications Authority of Kenya launched a revolutionary to protect children from internet crimes.
Proliferation of ICTs in Kenya has been singled out as key factor that is increasingly exposing children to cyberbullying, sexual exploitation, child pornography and internet addiction.
The majority of Kenyans access the internet through their mobile phones. In Kenya, mobile subscriptions have now hit 39.7 million with the mobile penetration reaching 90 percent.
An increased number of smart devices buoyed by this rising number of people connected to the internet, is widening exposure of too much adult content to children, who can easily access internet powered phones and tablets.
There are at least two mobile phones in every household in the country, shortening the proximity of children to internet enabled handsets.
Consequently, the technological revolution is seen as a major factor that is escalating the level of child exposure to online sexual abuse compared to 10 years ago.
As a result, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) has partnered with various stakeholders to implement mechanisms that would safeguard children’s online safety.
In 2015, Kenya marked Safer Internet day (SID) when a campaign dubbed Kenya Web Rangers started.
The campaign targeted school children and was aimed at creating a pool of children who would use the internet positively to come up with innovations to tackle cybercrimes.
At the time, it emerged that most existing digital literacy curricula aimed at children were not sufficiently comprehensive, limiting self-protection, parental guidance and supervision, despite a big emphasis on parental involvement.
Search engine, Google and non-governmental organisation Content Development and Intellectual Property (CODE-IP) Trust were tasked to come up with systems to limit children from access to unauthorised content by blocking related images and videos.
Google joined other search engines and social media sites like Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo that had already developed such systems.
Two years later, CAK launched the “Be The Cop”, a campaign on Child Online Protection to raise awareness of the types of crimes that children are exposed to in cyberspace.
The campaign highlighted the role that parents, guardians and teachers need to play to protect children in cyberspace while at the same time provides avenues of redress should one encounter cybercrime.
The CAK has since partnered with other organisations that play a role in safeguarding children.
Such as The Department of Children Services, Cradle, Kenya Girl Guides Association, Kenya Scouts Association, Kenya Association of Professional Counsellors, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Plan International and Childline Kenya; as well as service providers Google, Orange, Airtel and Safaricom to fortify plans that would seal loopholes and safeguard children online.
A teacher’s guide on safety and threats on internet targeted at parents and teachers has also been developed to tackle a huge disparity on internet knowledge between the young and older generation that makes it difficult for effective child online protection.
The current second phase of “The Child” online safety campaign entailed sensitising consumers of ICT services on their rights and responsibilities within the ICT environment.
It involved working with county governments through The County ICT consumer forum dubbed “Kikao Kikuu”.
Key areas of focus have been on legislative framework, capacity building, research, local and international cooperation as well as public awareness to develop skills and knowledge in this area.
A lot of work has already gone on in ensuring that a pool of parents, teachers and children join the fight against cyberbullying; what can parents or guardians do to safeguard children online?
Get involved: Come up with activities you can work on together with children. It brings you closer to your child and helps you to supervise them at closer range. This is also an opportunity to teach them on good and acceptable computer habits.
Set rules: These are a reminder to dangers and warning to put a caveat on computer usage for kids.
Let them know boundaries of where and what they can do using a computer. Set different user logins to control what they access. It includes what sites they can visit and software programmes they can use.
Computer positioning: Keep your computer in an open area to deter a child from going to prohibited sites. This also allows parents a chance to intervene when you notice children crossing boundaries to sites that could pose them to cybercrimes.
Be open: Open up communication lines with children and let them know they can approach you when they encounter cyberbullying or challenges on the computers.
Set parental controls: Set some parental controls within your browser to restrict or allow certain websites to be viewed on your computer. You can also protect these settings with a password.
Be a good example: Children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviour, so parents are encouraged to lead by example and show their children how to safely surf online.
Educate: Train young children to use strong and unique passwords across all their accounts and never to share passwords, even with their closest friends.
Stay the course: The hardest part of supervising your child’s internet exposure and activity comes after you make the rules.
It’s called following through, even when you’re talking, texting, tweeting, cooking dinner; basically, doing life.
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