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Children are exposed to a variety of risks online. According to the United Nations convention on child protection a child is a person under 18 years of age. The advent of mobile phones has greatly increased the availability of internet access to children even in private areas where their parents cannot easily have control over them. They are thus exposed to harmful online contents like pornography and predators. Reports from industry during the 2014 IGF revealed that there are over 5 billion threats on the internet per day, with 30% from the social media and 20% targeting kids. It is therefore highly necessary to carefully consider how we can enable our kids to be safe online and enjoy the positive aspects of the internet.
Children may access harmful contents online intentionally, because they are naturally curious, or unintentionally from misdirected websites or instant messages from sexual predators. Sexual predators in particular use the anonymity of the internet to their advantage. They target mostly children between the ages of 12 and 15. At these ages kids are discovering their sexuality and independence and are less likely to discuss issues with their parents. Using personal profiles posted online, predators get information from children. They pretend to sympathize with children from single parents and those who have problems in school or at home, in order to build their trust. Adolescents easily build trust with those who share their problems and offer to help. Children experimenting with drugs, alcohol or sex are at high risk.
Mobile phones have greatly increased the exposure of African children to unsafe online contents. They are equally more vulnerable because most of them come from poor homes and predators may want to use this as an advantage. Also few African families are well educated about the dangers online. African schools need to properly educate our kids on online safety, since most parents may not be knowledgeable enough. Generally to protect kids online, parents need to talk about the things that are bad on the internet with their children. They are anxious to discover the world so they need our guidance not control.
1. Michael R. (2014) Internet Safety for Children .Available at http://www.safer-internet.net/how-internet-predators-select-their-v... [accessed on18 th September 2014]
2. N. Family Safe Computers. Available at http://www.familysafecomputers.org/predators.htm accessed on 18th September 2014]
3 Transcript of 2014 IGF on Child Online Protection