Taking cues from The Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Congress: 45% of youth do post their birth date or age online; 34% post their real names, phone numbers, addresses, or schools and 18% post their pictures.
From the ISPs to our homes and schools and internet cafes and ICT centers around the country, children are accessing the internet and we cannot pretend as stakeholders not to have noticed that. Let us be candid, its either your child is already out there on the internet and you are not aware off or she will soon be.
As part of SMARTKLIQ’s GHANAIAN CHILDREN INTERNET SAFETY CAMPAIGN, I have had interactions with quite a number of students within the Tema Metropolis. It turned out that about 50% of the children in Upper primary have accessed the internet and about 70% of those in JHS1 to JHS3 have accessed the internet performing various activities which include chatting. About 50% of those in the JHS have a Facebook profile.
Findings have shown that the internet has a lot of benefits as far our children’s development is concerned. The internet has been said to help a child’s cognitive, social, emotional and even physical development.
You will all agree that our early stages as humans is characterized by finding and trying out things. The Ghanaian child in this era will seize every opportunity to want to be inquisitive about things happening around him or her. The technological tools especially the internet makes it easy for our younger generation to seek and find information which hitherto would have been inaccessible. Go around the city and urban areas and see how children are making things happen on the internet in ways parents can’t keep pace with. Most especially in our part of the world where the internet is a no go area for many parents.
Come to Tema and Ashaiman where I live, the internet is a part of the daily lives of the children there. Quoting one writer that said “…when kids are online, they’re reading, thinking, analyzing, criticizing and authenticating – composing their thoughts.
Kids use computers for activities that go hand-in-hand with our understanding of what constitutes a traditional childhood. They use the technology to play, learn, communicate and form relationships as children always have. Development is enhanced in an interactive world”
Seeing all that is in stock on line for our children, it will be unwise to keep them away from the internet. A huge responsibility therefore lies on us stakeholders( Parents,Teachers,Religious bodies, Government Agencies etc ) to ensure that our children are responsible when in the virtual world. Reports have it that about over 2million Ghanaians are online and about half of these number alone is on Facebook. I don’t know about you but for me these statistics gives me a lot to think about.
“It has become imperative that we take a break and seriously find out how much of the virtual world our children are involved in. From my observations most parents have little or no idea of what their wards under 15 years are doing online and that is serious business for us all”
SOME CONCERNS RAISED:
Let me share with you some of the concerns that have been raise so far by some stakeholders like you about our children using the internet .
- There should be sustained collaborative efforts among stakeholders towards promoting a safe Internet culture among children and young people in Africa
- All concerned stakeholders need to help bridge the existing gap between the parents and children on one hand and the teachers and students on the other. This should be done with a view to providing the much needed avenue through which the activities of children and young people on the Internet can be monitored and controlled. Imperative to this is the need for parents and teachers to develop their IT skills…..African Children Cyber Safety Initiative http://www.itu.int/osg/csd/cybersecurity/gca/cop/policy.html
- “I welcome the ITU’s Child Online Protection Initiative and I urge all States to support it.” Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary-General
- The use of the Internet and other communication technologies, such as mobile phones continues to grow considerably in the African Union and offers all citizens great opportunities for inter alia, participation, interactivity and creativity. However, risks to children and abuse of these technologies continue to exist and as a result of changing technologies and societal behaviours, new risks and abuses continue to emerge. Measures should be adopted at all levels in order to protect the physical, mental and moral integrity of children, which might be impaired by their accessing inappropriate content…………http://www.acopea.org
- Research observed that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) would negatively affect Ghana’s development, if pro-active measures are not taken to prevent the youth from using the facility for fraud and immorality… Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC)
- “Today, the internet and mobile phones have become more enemies than friends to our children’’ and that “ our children are our most valuable assets but vulnerable members of our society, hence protecting them against the misuse of the internet should be our utmost priority… Ofosu Ampofo. Former Minister for Local Government and Rural Development.
- This new found happiness also encouraged many under aged children (upper adolescence especially) unguided access to websites they normally should not access. No one seems to be cautioning them as they stand as customer who paid for services…………………….. http://africanchildright.org.
I believe that these concerns should be awake up call for all stakeholders. This is a serious national issue which calls for immediate action to guide our younger generation to benefit fully from the internet whiles being responsible online.