This morning someone friend requested me on Facebook. Without putting much thought at it, I just accepted. The person, a ‘lady’, was very fast at being friendly. A little small talk has never hurt, or has it? So, to show my polite side, I chatted on.
A strange coincidence was that she went on friend requesting my list of friends and chatting them up. A teenage Facebook friend inboxes me her photo, “do you happen to know her?” “She’s kind of creepy, asking me where I live.” My advice- unfriend her, you can’t divulge such information about yourself to a stranger. I also took the magic step – Pressing the unfriend button.
It’s a creepy web out there quite literally, and you don’t know who your child might run into. Many minors are at the risk of meeting predators online. Problem is, not all of them are smart enough to do a background check on strangers they meet online. Which is why the Communications Authority of Kenya have come up with a Child Online protection program dubbed Be The Cop.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has a Child online protection initiative. CA has therefore localized this initiative through the Child Online Protection awareness campaign. The campaign will run for a period of two years and will be carried out in various phases. The first phase will be an awareness campaign that will be carried out through the media. This will aim to start the conversation and raise awareness on the risks that children are exposed to online. The other phases of the campaign will directly engage with students through various school activities and platforms.
To ensure that the campaign is effective, the Authority has partnered with various organisations including: Department of Children Services, The Cradle, Kenya Girl Guides Association, Kenya Scouts Association, Kenya Association of Professional Counselors, UNICEF, Google, Plan International, Terre de Hommes, Childline Kenya, GSMA and mobile service providers Orange, Airtel and Safaricom.
As parents and guardians, we ought to be informed on the good, bad and ugly of the internet. This way, we can better protect our children as they use the internet. There are many dangers lurking on the internet. Some of these dangers are Solicitation of minors, identity theft, cyber bullying and child pornography. Minors are also prone to internet addiction.
With our fast paced society, the question of when to get your child a mobile phone is never thought of critically. A smartphone can do wonders, it can connect you to your child. Some parents buy their children these gadgets in order to communicate with them. Sometimes you have no choice due to the nature of work that cannot allow you to be around your children. A report by the internet society showed that 3 billion Internet users were likely by May 2015. Mobile Internet penetration according to the report was forecast to reach 71% by 2019. A majority of these users are teenagers. The internet may open your doors to dangerous elements like pedophiles and kidnappers.
Communication Authority has developed a booklet that has guidelines on child online protection. It can be used by any parent or guardian trying to communicate to children. It is visually appealing and interesting to read with children, bearing in mind that the younger the child, the shorter the attention span. Before anyone talks to your child on online safety, you are the best suited person to start the conversation.