The internet is the go-to spot for almost anything nowadays. Many homes can be said to have at least one internet-enabled device, hence the need for internet safety.
It is not in question that the internet contains reliable and useful sources of information, even for children. Through the internet, children also have access to an almost endless supply of information and opportunity for interaction.
However, while children can learn a lot from the use of the internet, child development experts and Information Technology specialists have said there are also imminent risks and dangers for children using the internet.
Child online abuse is a societal concern which is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), countries are developing measures to address and provide significant assurance of online safety for children, their families, and society at large.
The commission stated clearly that online safety is not the non-existence of harm or risk, rather it is creating the atmosphere or opportunity to overcome the risks while enjoying the inherent benefits of using the internet.
“Educating young children about cyber safety is complicated, as young children often do not understand the social and technical complexities of the Internet. This difficulty in understanding arises because the Internet is virtual and cannot be experienced firsthand by the sense.
As computers are usually in a place children perceive as safe, the risks are not readily apparent to them. They do not understand that the computer can be networked and connected beyond the safe place to a world that can be both risky and dangerous. Young children and most adults, do not realise that materials posted on the Internet often times, do not have external controls or standards to subscribe to,”
NCC stated on a comprehensive document on child’s online safety posted on its website.
To keep children safe online, NCC recommended that parents and caregivers should:
Anticipate risks: Anticipation of risks will lead to appropriate control measures being put in place before a child is allowed access to digital devices or the internet. Some of these anticipatory control measures include:
Parental education: As a parent, stay informed and educated about the use of your devices and the devices your child has access to.
Stay informed on various social network sites and what happens on them. Stay informed and better educated than your children and wards. Make them understand that you know as much or more than they do. Therefore, be their go-to person for information on what to do with the device you eventually give them access to.
Caregivers should be trained on how to guide children in online activities: Schools have adopted the use of online platforms for education. Care must be taken to educate the teachers and prepare them for the avalanche of questions from children, on the use of various online applications or whatever information the children encounter online.
Install child appropriate apps/search engines: Before a device is given to a child, appropriate applications should first be installed on it. This will protect the child from inadvertently stumbling into wrong sites that appear as pop-ups.
Install firewall: Firewalls act as content filters. They help make sure non-age appropriate content does not appear on the child’s device.
Set timers on all devices used by the child: This helps to create discipline and structure for the child. Ensure clear time boundaries are set. The teachers are major support networks and pillars in the life of any child. They are oftentimes as trusted as parents are.
Empower the child: This is one of the most important steps any parent can take. There is a sense of privacy associated with being online. Parents will not always be there when children go online.
Adopting a child-centric approach to the use of the internet prepares the child for unforeseen issues and assures the child of the trust and respect of his/her parent.
Children will enjoy the benefits and advantages of the Internet when they know how to stay in control and not allow themselves to be victims of the platforms and devices.
a. Set ground rules and instructions in collaboration with the child.
b. Teach children basic online safety skills and how to apply them.