During the coronavirus pandemic, our children are more exposed to the internet either because they have to attend online classes or due to boredom.
More homes now have internet access and various gadgets that enable the children to log in and access learning materials online. In between the learning sessions, our children are exposed to the internet and all its ills such as cyberbullying and accessing inappropriate content.
It is for this reason that the Kenya Alliance of Residents Association (KARA) in partnership with Safaricom organized a webinar on October 13, 2020, to reflect on risks and possible mitigation measures to enhance online safety of children.
Emanuel Guyumba, a Form Three student at Mang’u High school and who is a resident of Syokimau was one of the panellists during the webinar. Other panellists included Communications Authority of Kenya acting Manager for Research and Consumer Information Caroline Murianki, National Parents Association Chairman Nicholas Maiyo and Safaricom’s Public Policy Manager Agnes Okello.
During this webinar, the following came out as the main challenges our children are facing while they are online.
- Abuse and security risks
- Identity theft. Some parents have suffered identity theft as the children usually log in with the parents’ credentials.
- Harmful content: One of the most favourite content among children and youth is games. Naturally, they subscribe to free services that later lead them to hardcore and harmful content.
Here are five internet safety tips for children.
Always Communicate with Your Child
If you are not an authoritarian parent who wags their finger all the time and if you do not suppress the child, he/she will be more open with you.
If your child is comfortable enough to consult you when they feel something suspicious, you will be aware of the potential dangers. Internet safety for children means they should feel safe to share their problems and insecurities with you.
Tell Your Child the Difference Between Imagining and the Truth
Explain that he/she should not be afraid of the scary/ugly characters that may appear on the internet and should close the content that he/she does not like. Raising awareness in this matter will reduce the negative emotional impact of technology on children.
Explain to Your Child That Some Applications are Not Suitable for Them
In normal life, they know that they should not talk to people that they do not know on the street, so explain that the internet is not different and that some applications are not suitable for them.
If someone contacts them online, remind them that they should share this with you without giving any response to the message. Sharing the information on how to stay safe on the internet with your children will prevent your child from forming unwanted contacts.
Use Family Filters and Security Software
Configure your browser’s sensitive security settings. Filter fear-inciting, violent and obscene content. Taking these measures will reduce the negative effects of technology on children.
Do not stop being in control after doing this. Be in constant contact with your child and monitor what they do on the internet. You can ask them to teach you what they are doing online because children often enjoy teaching adults something and it’s the best way to unobtrusively monitor them.
Do Not Ignore the Wishes and Needs of Your Child
Determine daily usage duration instead of banning access to gadgets and the internet. Consider each new game you want to download. Select which application to follow when you want to watch a video. Provide the necessary research and reliable content.
The government through its various agencies, regulators and internet service providers are doing their best to protect our children and youth from harmful online content.
Because they cannot filter everything, the first line of defence for our children and youth are the parents, guardians and caregivers. They need to be equipped with the necessary skills to enable them to guide the young generation on online safety.
So, is the internet good or bad for children? It simply depends on how you raise them and the content you introduce them to.