“I welcome the ITU’s Child Online Protection Initiative and I urge all States to support it.…Ban Ki-Moon – Former UN Secretary-General
As noted last week: “When children are on the internet they are known to be reading, thinking, analysing, criticising and verifying – putting their thoughts together”.
Recent publications reveal that efforts are being made, especially by the police, to help strengthen the fight against cybercrime. I would like to state emphatically that an integral part of fighting cybercrime is educating the general public about precautions they need to take when online, so as not to become victims of online reprobates.
This, I believe, is necessary because cybercrime’s not only targetted at foreigners who are swindled for money, but as it matures is being targetted internally at the many vulnerable groups online.
Children all over the world, just like ours, are becoming the most vulnerable group of people online today, and are regularly being solicited by bad people. Victims are mostly between aged 13 – 18.
Stakeholders, including the Police, need to take seriously the efforts directed at creating awareness among these vulnerable groups online.
What children get from the Internet!
We also noted that the Internet is indeed good for our children, as long as they use it responsibly. It is essential that our children develop intellectually, especially in these days of massive information-assimilation needs. There is a need for every school-going child who aims at doing well academically to have a good memory, critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. There is also need for the child to be able to make sense of all the information surrounding him/her. The Internet is helping a lot of children around the world to gain these abilities, and the Ghanaian child can also benefit from the Internet.
Social interactions have been enhanced by the Internet all around us. Even as adults, we have become largely connected to people all over the country and the world at large – which hitherto wouldn’t have been possible. Children are becoming more advanced in using the Internet to socialize with friends or peers nationally and internationally. I remember in our day we had pen-pals we used to write letters to, and every now then we’d check our post-boxes for replies. Today, what do we see? Our children are communicating effectively via emails, instant messaging and chatting platforms. Indeed, the internet is helping children socialise more widely and effectively.
ITU’s Action Points for all Stakeholders
- There should be a massive Internet awareness campaign targetted particularly at parents, educators and counsellors.
- There should be sustained, collaborative efforts among stakeholders toward promoting a safe Internet culture among children and young people in Africa.
- Children, young persons, parents, educators as well as other stakeholders should make it a duty to always participate in information-security activities.
- All concerned stakeholders need to help bridge the existing gap between parents and children on one hand, and teachers and students on the other. This should be done with a view to providing the much-needed avenue through which 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.
- Parents are enjoined to take an interest in the cyberspace activities of their children. They are encouraged to install parental control software and appropriate online protection tools on their systems, to help monitor and control what their children do online.
- Against the reality of ravaging moral decadence in society, all stakeholders are called upon to join hands toward moral regeneration in the society. The much-cherished cultural values of self-respect, respect for others, and dignity must be restored in our society.
- Children and young people are advised to adopt well-established Internet etiquette (Netiquette) while working online.
- Children and young people who patronise cybercafés should avoid and blacklist cybercafés where illegal online activities are condoned.
- All professionals within the ICT industry are urged, in the interest of the society, to adopt self-regulation mechanisms toward reducing the prevalence of unethical materials online.
- Providers, especially those providing Internet access and service, should be actively involved in promoting information security for children while carrying out their business. They should show more social responsibility by participating actively in forums and related initiatives of this nature.
- African governments should enact legislation to ensure appropriate Internet-policing. Besides, the law enforcement agencies should be empowered to adequately deal with cybercrimes.
- Relevant government agencies, by way of promoting public good, should live up to their regulatory responsibilities by ensuring cybercafés and service providers enhance information-security; particularly for children going online.
- Governments should make information-security, including children’s online protection, a national priority
As concerned adults, we should be looking at collaboration among stakeholders from Accra through Kumasi to Bolga, to help ensure our children and teens do not become victims or perpetrators of cybercrime.