The dangers associated with our children in the cyber space are multiple, and it includes child abuse, child pornography, hate and suicidal sites and many more which a lot of people are not privy to.
Finding out children’s vulnerability in the online related sexual abuse and various exploitations within a broader social and cultural context can provide a better understanding of the nature of concerns and how they are framed.
Nonetheless, the circumstances in which children begin to engage in the online environment widely differ across, within different settings.
Our children of today, inhabit a world that incorporates a virtual reality unknown to previous generations. They have grown up with the Internet as a central part of their lives, using computers at school, have Internet enabled mobile phones, and online game consoles, smart TV, tablets and laptops at home, where they use them to work, play, communicate and express themselves.
There is the need to understand how the internet and technology affects their lives, because the ideas, values, culture, aspirations and expectations of children in the 21st century are increasingly informed not by their parents or community and religious leaders but rather by the broader world around them.
The Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Communications launched the Safer Digital Ghana campaign with Child Online Protection (COP) as a key component aimed at getting children educated on the risk of being on the internet.
It is on the backdrop of this, that NAKSAM SOLUTIONS organized the maiden Child-in-Tech Conference, which seeks to support the efforts of the government in fighting the cybercrime menace through sensitization.
The 2-day conference, which was slated on Monday 11th – Tuesday 12th of March, 2019, at the Accra Digital Centre dubbed, “Empowering children in the cyberspace” was designed to help educate children on the risks factors they are exposed to in the cyberspace.
In his open remarks at the event, Mr. Frank Prince Baiden, the CEO of NAKSAM SOLUTIONS, said, “We hope to minimize the rate of cyber attack and have the most safer technology students in the country. This conference seeks to create awareness for children across Ghana and beyond. It will help educate children on potential risks within the cyberspace.”
According to him, the conference was born out of a passion to empower children to know which information about them and others could be shared.
“During the regular ICT education by NAKSAM SOLUTIONS to the children in Tesano Community, we discovered how tempting it was to see pop ups on the internet without clicking. Child-in-Tech conference is aiming at getting children to the point where they can decide which friend request to accept, which message to respond to, which information to send out to strangers on the internet,” He intimated.
Mr. Frank also said, “As we deliberate as pupils today, we have been charged with the responsibility of educating our friends, family and parents on the need to stay safe in the cyber space.”
Child-in-Tech clubs, he said, will be set up in the model schools taking part in the conference and as well as quiz sessions, in collaboration with the National Cyber Security and other authorities to ensure results, to help send the information down well.
He said, it will also ensure that participants would be well equipped with necessary information.
On his part, Mr. George Kwashie Awusu, Senior Manager, DPP West Africa Interim Head of Marketing and Solutions at KPMG, said, in a digital age where many young people are logging long hours of screen-time, it was critical that government bodies, parents, teachers, organizations and industry experts work together to arm them with the information they need to stay safe online and offline.
He said, “According to the child internet study conducted by the center for cyber safety and education in the USA, 40% of kids have connected or chatted with a stranger online; with 53% of those kids having revealed their phone number to a stranger. Alarmingly, the same study found that those who admitted to chatting with strangers online, 11% met with a stranger and 6% revealed their home address.”
Mr. George, indicated that, the Child-in-Tech Conference was a timely intervention as it seeks to create awareness and build the capacity of children who use the internet. Adding that, “More importantly, it will promote safer internet practices among children and consequently protect them.”
Deputy Minister for Communications, Vincent Sowah Odotei, and Member of Parliament of La Dadekotopon in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, charged the kids to follow the basic hygiene practices called cyber hygiene.
Emphasising that, “someone sends you an unsolicited mail and you don’t know the person, you need to authenticate it before you spread it to your friends. As children, you must know that, there are some things that are done by adults, so you must desist from spreading unauthenticated things you see on the internet. As you cannot whisper to anyone you meet on your way any how, so you cannot spread anything you see on the internet.”
“This is why the government of Ghana has come up with the National Cyber Security Strategy and Policy, and that, Child Online Protection is a key feature of it. We have existing regulations; electronic transaction act, criminal code…. I’m sure you are all aware when the laws were enacted, we didn’t have existing internet.”
The Deputy Minister, added that, “We are making gap analysis to ensure that, we have a dedicated and focused legislation on Child Online Protection, and I can assure you that, it will be not too long we will be able to address issues affecting students and our children. Over the past two years, the government has invested a lot, also in training prosecutors, lawyers, CIDs and high court judges, on how to fight, adjudicate and prosecute cuber crimes to ensure we protect our children.”