Kenya’s communications regulator, in collaboration with local telecommunication companies, has launched an interactive portal aimed at creating a safer online environment for children, with tips for guardians.
The portal developed by the Communications Authority of Kenya in collaboration with Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom Kenya, Jamii Telecommunication Ltd and the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), offers safety tips for children and their parents or guardians.
“It also has a gaming component that enables both the young and the young at heart to measure their level of awareness on online risks such as cyber bullying, identity theft and online sexual harassment,” said Mercy Wanjau, the Acting Director-General of the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
The site will also give the public the ease of reporting child online abuse cases through the ‘get help and report a case’ functionality. The reported cases will be directly channelled to the regulator through the KE-Cirt reporting platform.
It comes against the backdrop of increased cyber-threats recorded with the increased internet access that came with the Covid-19 pandemic, as reported by the Communications Authority.
The portal was launched on Tuesday, February 9, as part of events in Kenya to mark Safer Internet Day. The day is celebrated in approximately 150 countries worldwide and has been marked in Kenya for the past eight years.
From cyberbullying to social networking, the annual Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and chooses a topic reflecting current concerns.
The portal is a timely intervention given how the Covid-19 pandemic saw a rapid increase in the number of children accessing the internet for the first time. However, this has been a double-edged sword.
While children can access information for education purposes and easily communicate with teachers and other children, it also exposes children to inappropriate, fake or inaccurate content or be targeted by criminals and online abuse.
The Safaricom Newsroom has compiled a list of tips for parents and guardians to keep their children safe while online:
Establish rules – It is important to first have a conversation with the child about the use of the internet and personal devices. The discussion about the rules will include agreed screen time, the content the child is allowed to access as well as about the possible dangers of the internet. The child needs to understand why the rules are important and what to watch out for when online, such as bullies, predators and abusive material. In its guide for parents, guardians and educators, the International Telecommunications Union recommends that the computer to be used by the children should be placed in a common room, which might be difficult in the age of mobile devices, but it would be useful for everyone.
Parental Control Tools – There are several tools that can be used to remotely monitor and control activity on an internet-connected device. These tools, which are essentially software that is installed on either the parent or guardian’s and the child’s device, enable the parent to remotely monitor activity on the other device and to set limits on access to the internet. Two good examples are Google Family Link and Qustodio. Google Family Link enables parental controls to set digital ground rules. Parents can monitor and control app installation on the child’s device and assess the time spent using any device or app. Qustodio, free to download from the internet, enables a parent to see how the child is using devices, apps and the web, manage their child’s experiences online and filter access so that they are not exposed to harmful content. There are also a range of other apps that can be used to remotely monitor online activity.
Constant monitoring – You will have to resist the temptation to think that constantly checking what your child is doing is wrong, or that you are being intrusive, but the truth is that it is necessary. The International Telecommunication Union recommends that parents, guardians and teachers be familiar with the websites used by their children and how they spend their time online. It might put you in an unfamiliar situation, like needing to learn how Tiktok works and who the biggest celebrity on Instagram is, but it would put you in a better position to spot online abuse, and to stop it. Constant monitoring means doing random checks on the child’s online activity.
Ask your child’s school for guidance – With the Covid-19 pandemic making online learning a necessity, schools have made significant investments in software and research into online learning. Some schools advise parents on the best software and apps for parental control and monitoring.
Communicate – At the end of the day, having the tools and constantly monitoring your child’s use of the internet needs to be accompanied by the child understanding the need to be careful when online. Children are growing up in an era of accessible technology and are intuitive users of technology. They are likely to react to oppressive controls by finding ways around it. Therefore, you need to show respect for the growing child as doing so also gives them a sense of responsibility while avoiding to lose the battle.
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