In a world that is rapidly becoming digitised, the safety of children when online is a matter that should never be taken lightly.
With threats such as phishing, cyber-bullying, and even the act of posting private information being a loophole in ensuring children’s safety, the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) has partnered with Google and Code IP Trust to launch the Digital Parenting Programme to sensitise parents and guardians on how to protect children against inappropriate content.
KFB Chief Executive Officer Ezekiel Mutua explained that the programme will ensure learners access safe Google features that protect and block them from harmful content.
Considering the ongoing crisis enveloping the country, this is especially vital because learning is happening online. Mutua emphasised this by stating “This is part of our mandate to create awareness aimed at protecting our children from dirty content, especially now that they are at home for a long time.”
On the issue of online content especially on sites like YouTube, Mutua said they were working with the Ministry of ICT to formulate better policy guidelines.
“Online content is a major problem even in the developed world. The growth of the internet and penetration rate has made access to online content very easy,” said Mutua.
Earlier this year, Mutua initiated a battle against immorality, warning Public Service Vehicle operators against exposing children to harmful content, especially raunchy music videos.
He added: “The moral fabric of our country is broken and we must act now to save our future generation. When you look at the kind of content some media houses air you wonder whether those in charge have children.
Here are three ways to protect your children on the internet:
1. Don’t talk to strangers
Whether playing online games with friends or joining in conversations on social media, children come into contact with strangers every day.
But online comment threads, chat rooms, and private messages also contain cybercriminals. They hide behind avatars to trick children into giving out personal details. These details can then be used to steal your identity and money. These phishing scams are especially common when targeting vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly.
What your kids need to know: Your kids need to know that people are likely not who they say they are online. Even if someone looks, sounds, or acts like someone their age, they may be fooled. Always be cautious and never give out any personal info, even to “known” friends. This might include anything from age and location, to online login info or whether your parents are home.
How you can help your kids: Sticking to well-known games or reputable social sites can help protect your child. But even then, it can be hard keeping your child safe on the internet by monitoring who they talk to online and what they say.
And it’s not just cybercriminals who operate in these chat spaces. Sadly, as in real life, bullies exist on the Internet.
2. Block and report online bullies
On gaming sites and social media, some people log on to simply harass and taunt others. These players are known as cyberbullies.
Controlling and preventing cyberbullying is difficult. In most online games, moderators attempt to ban them. But with so many players, it can be hard to get every single one. Social media can be equally tricky as each platform has different guidelines in response to cyberbullies. They may even define harassment differently than other platforms.
What your kids need to know: If someone’s actions are making them feel uncomfortable or attacked, your child should let you know. Also, you or your child should document the behaviors and report them to support staff if possible. Most importantly, be sure that your child does not stick around for more abuse. They can block the person if necessary. Sometimes bullying can be an extension of real-life harassment, which needs further intervention.
How you can help your kids: Again, parental control functions can keep your child safe from internet bullies in the online playground. They work by monitoring who your child talks to online and providing you with the power to block any undesirable contacts. You can also receive alerts when any specified word is used in online communication.
Even with all this protection, it is still impossible to monitor your child 100% of the time. Seemingly innocent sites can still contain malicious links that can compromise the security of your whole network.
3. Some links, downloads, and websites can make computers sick
Cybercriminals know children seek out free software, music, and games. They also know children are more likely to trust links and email attachments.
What your kid needs to know: If your child clicks on one of these links, they may download a virus that has the potential to not just compromise expose the security of their PC, but your whole network. They may do this inadvertently, simply clicking on a banner ad while the malware invisibly loads compromising your kid’s safety on the Internet.
How you can help your kids: The best protection is a decent Internet security suite that blocks unsafe links and checks every download for signs of malware.
Nothing replaces parental guidance when it comes to child Internet safety. Simply talking to your children can help hugely – teaching them to not automatically click “yes” buttons and to walk away from bullies or potential cybercriminals. Internet security suites with parental controls are meant to compliment this by monitoring what they get up to online.
The internet can be a dangerous neighborhood for everyone, but children and teens are especially vulnerable. From cyber predators to social media posts that can come back to haunt them later in life, online hazards can have severe, costly, even tragic, consequences. Through the learning of online risks and hazards, understanding how to go about them and being aware of the internet will be vital as children study from home during this period.