On February 9, Uganda joined the rest of the world in commemoration of the World Safer Internet Day. This is a day set aside to reflect on, impart and inculcate safe, healthy and hygienic Internet usage among the various cyber actors, and those who come in contact with the increasing online activity, be it e-commerce or e-governance and so on.
For me, the matter of children online safety was invoked.
John F. Kennedy, the 35th US President, was quoted as saying “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
With increasing technological advancement came rapid growths in the youngsters’ access to electronic communication and gaming devices and as a tool to cripple the effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic, came with ease of conducting online distance e-learning programmes at all levels of education.
The increasing exposure clothed as a beckon of hope for the education sector proved to be far injurious to the health and mental well-being of these children as they interfaced with online devices and other parties.
Cases of cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content (drugs, violence, adult content), cyber predators, sexual abuse, exploitation and the likes resulting in trauma, addiction, anxiety, and suicide, among others, have since grown out of hand.
This is an issue that begs an insight into the avenues parents, guardians, caretakers or those having custody of and authority over the children glued online resources and rooms can adopt to ensure safety of this category of beings online.
The good news, however is that we can work together in the spirit of the Safer Internet Day to ensure online safety for our children by, among others, educating the children on the dangers and potential impact of some of their actions online, is the first step to ensuring that the children actually maintain a sound online atmosphere that is conducive for all parties.
Parents should, therefore, engage in dialogue with their children to ascertain the kind of content and websites they access online.
Parents can also install parental controls in the devices of minors and utilise the tracking features of the phones, tablets or computers.
Make online platforms safe and accessible for children by adopting online safety resources to different age groups of children you are reaching and making these resources more accessible on their platforms to inform children, parents, and caregivers of online risks and provide access to support services.
As and when possible, the administrators of the various children online or chat rooms should monitor and regulate the same.
Lastly, parents can empower their children to report any cases of online or cyberbullying and they should ensure that they react to these reports once received to boost the confidence of the children in bringing to the attention of the parents the cyberbullying conduct orchestrated online.
Every child and young person should be able to participate in an enjoyable and safe environment and be protected from abuse and these same principles apply in the online environment. This is the responsibility of every adult. All this speaks to the investment we ought to make.