The Internet has brought untold benefits to our lives and presents vast opportunities and possibilities that enable us to learn, work, and play. There are however exists risks and vulnerabilities online.
The Communications Authority as the ICT regulator is mandated to protect consumers of ICT services including children.
Children are a vulnerable group and there have been many cases of children unknowingly getting into dangerous situations that sometimes have detrimental effects on them.
Protecting children online is a global problem that requires concerted efforts of parents, guardians, the government, and organizations that focus on children, among others.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN specialized agency for ICTs-has a Child Online Protection initiative that brings together partners from all sectors of the global community to create a safe and empowering online experience for children around the world.
It has further developed guidelines for children; parents, guardians, and educators; industry, and policymakers.
“With the wide availability of the internet, children regularly access cyberspace and are increasingly exposed to cybercrime.
Unknown to many parents and guardians, children are constant victims of cyberbullying, online sexual harassment, with many even exposed to sexually explicit materials and online stalking, among other vices,” said Mrs. Mercy Wanjau, the Director, Legal Services.
In the current world, the internet is one of the most powerful communications and education tools ever invented and many people around the world are gaining access to it. Like with anything that powerful, there are some negative effects to it.
According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, protecting children online is a global problem that requires concerted efforts of parents, guardians, government, organizations that are children centric among others
Article 29 (D) of the Kenya Constitution states that ‘Every person has the right to freedom and security which includes the right not to be subjected to torture in any manner, whether physical or psychological.
The Constitution in Article 46 (C) on Consumer Protection states that ‘Consumers have the right to the protection of their health, safety, and economic interests.
At the same time, the Children’s Act No.8 of 2001 makes provision for parental responsibility, fostering, adoption, custody, maintenance, guardianship, care, and protection of children. This provision extends to protecting children in cyberspace.
During this year’s Safer Internet Day celebrations, the Communications Authority launched an online game that is tailored towards entertaining and teaching children about the dangers that are associated with the internet.
The game dubbed “Cyber Soldjas” targets children aged between 4 to 14 years old. Children within this age group learn better through action and repetition, best delivered through games.
The game is aimed at guiding the children through a maze of potential dangers online and also teaching them how to protect their identity, personal data, recognize sites containing harmful content, and finally, develop a critical approach towards information found on the Internet.
The game has five levels based on vulnerabilities and risks on the Internet, including cybercrime, identity theft, fake news, and catfishing.
The launch comes on the backdrop of children as young as the age of three having access to the Internet either on personal or shared devices.
According to data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), 20.6 million Kenyans aged three and above own a mobile phone. Most of these gadgets are in the hands of youth aged between 25-34 who hold 6.1 million handsets. They are followed by those aged between 18-24 with 4.6 million mobile phones, while another 44,777 mobile phones are in the hands of children aged between three and four.
The CA Director-General Ezra Chiloba however, noted that increased access to the Internet and digital technology also poses significant challenges to children and the youth, including their safety.
“Impacts range from threats to protection of personal data and privacy to harassment and cyberbullying, harmful online content, grooming for sexual purposes, and sexual abuse and exploitation,” Mr. Chiloba said, during the official opening of national Safe Internet Day 2022 celebrations, in a speech read on his behalf by Mrs. Mercy Wanjau, the Director, Legal Services.
The online game will complement other previous initiatives such as Child Online Protection (COP), ‘BE The COP’ microsite, that the Authority has put in place to create safer cyberspace for children. The Authority has also adopted a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure that children and future generations are protected and empowered to thrive in digital environments.
Mrs, Maureen Mwaniki, Director, Women in Technology at Huawei-Kenya said that the private sector has an important responsibility and an important role in ensuring a safer Internet.
“To provide digital skills at a large scale requires efforts from all stakeholders in society and we are committed to working with partners from CA, government, industry, non-profits, and academia to do this,” noted Mrs. Mwaniki.
The device manufacturer also has specific software and hardware for children that ensures they can access the Internet safely and several digital skills training programs that incorporate online safety, for example, the DigiTruck that targets the under-served youth in rural communities teaching online safety every day with other partners.
The Safer Internet Day began as an initiative of the European Union Safe Borders project in 2004 and is today celebrated in close to 130 countries around the world.