Thinking back on my school days, the topic “Digitization has done more harm than good, discuss”, would have been a favourite of most English teachers.
All over the world and in Ghana, people have been reacting to the boom in digital resources and taking advantage of the opportunities provided. The enormous benefits of digital resources cannot be overstated. Education, buying and selling, art, relevant news, fact-finding, how-to write-ups and videos, entertainment, etc. are part of an endless list of things we do today that are facilitated by various digital tools – more so with the COVID 19 pandemic and the attendant need for social distancing.
Yesterday, 6th October 2020 in Accra, The National Cyber Security Centre presented a workshop titled Cyber Hygiene Best Practices for Children. This session was part of the ongoing national conversation about cybersecurity during National Cyber Security Awareness Month (October).
In his opening remarks, the National Cyber Security Advisor, Dr. Albert Antwi-Boasiako highlighted some of the issues affecting children online. Contact, the content they access, and the conduct of young users which exposes them and others to harm were some of the highlights from his remarks.
While children need to be able to participate meaningfully online, they have to be guided and protected when they engage with digital tools. A study by UNICEF in about 25 countries shows that 82% of children are at risk of being exposed to sexual images on the internet. This is only one statistic on the exposure children have online.
Do you know what children do on devices and online?
How can we make sure they are protected?
There are real risks involved in having children, especially, online without the right education, support, and environment needed to keep them safe.
We need to begin by being more mindful of these dangers. Giving a child a smartphone that has access to the internet without proper education on how to conduct himself or herself is already a big problem. Have those conversations about the internet, about personal safety, what to do, and what is unacceptable, and emphasize that the internet does not forget! Having these conversations in a healthy way will also make children aware of your concerns and hopefully create an open channel for them to come to you if they are concerned about anything that happens while online. The National Cyber Security Centre also has a hotline, 292, for reporting instances of impropriety experienced online. This is education every internet user needs, especially the most vulnerable among us – our children.
Give children the support they need to stay safe.
- What apps are recommended as being safe by experts?
- Have you as a parent or care-giver read up on the apps your children/ wards want to download?
- Does the app allow for chat rooms and interactions with people they may not know?
- What must they avoid doing on certain apps?
These are a few of the questions we as adults need to be asking to provide the support needed for children to be safe. Getting information about all of these issues will place us in a better position to advise and support children as they stay online safely.
Once they are educated and supported, creating an ideal environment that provides an extra layer of security for children is also important. One of the easiest things parents and caregivers can do is to have children work in spaces where they can see what they are doing on their screens at any point. As children, we all tried to push boundaries. Children of today are no different, and they have many more creative ways to do so. Removing temptation by making them aware you can pop in at any time will help mitigate some of the issues. Also having parental control monitoring apps like Bark, Boomerang, safe kids, etc. can give parents a certain level of comfort and serve as a deterrent for more ‘adventurous’ children.
So, “Digitization has done more harm than good. Discuss”, is a discussion topic that all of us should be interested in. We all owe it as a duty of care to protect our younger ones. Empowering them to participate and use digital tools responsibly while staying safe is the best way to get all the great benefits they offer while protecting tomorrow’s leaders.
Miss Margaret D.-A.