Youth Rise International, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) with focus on poverty eradication through education and decent work has called on the government, parents and care-givers to take concrete steps to protect children online.
The NGO noted the digital space had become the next available learning and working environment due to the advent of COVID-19 and thus exposed children to online risks more than any time in the history of Ghana.
“Due to COVID-19, children are forced to use the online space for research, education, social interaction and entertainment. This means that, the internet has become an integral part of our lives.
“Children are therefore exposed to various images, videos and other online contents which are not age appropriate as well as several children experiencing bullying, harassment, kidnapping and child trafficking online”.
These were contained in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr David Awusi and copied to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Cape Coast following the inauguration of the first ever child protection digital forensic laboratory.
The statement said the UNICEF Ghana’s report that two in five children in Ghana have received messages containing sexual content on their phones at least once during the past year should be a great national concern.
Additionally, it said the same study showed that one in five Ghanaian children had actually met someone face-to-face whom they first got to know on the internet and 25 percent of them were upset by this meeting.
The NGO has therefore encouraged the Ghana Police Service (GPS) in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to set up Child Online Safety (COS) desk in every police station across the 16 regions of the country.
It suggested that at least two police personnel should be trained to receive, document, refer or manage cases of online child abuse or exploitation.
Also, it urged the National Commission for Civic Education(NCCE) to incorporate child online protection awareness messages in their COVID-19 awareness campaigns at national and community levels.
“Parents, guardians and care-givers should routinely monitor the online or internet usage of children as well as setting up appropriate controls in order to ensure their online safety”, the statement said.
Youth Rise International commended the GPS and the stakeholders for the establishment of the Digital Forensic Laboratory which it believed would further enable the Police to detect and investigate the cases of trafficking and kidnapping.
It described the move which has been designed specifically to prevent and respond to criminal acts of online abuse, exploitation and violence against children as a ‘timely intervention’.
The statement encouraged every Ghanaian to actively report cases of online child abuse to the national WhatsApp hotline number.: 0501 603 111or email [email protected] for prompt response.