A Survey conducted in 2022 by the Cyber Security Authority (CSA) in selected Senior High Schools across Accra reveals that students are active on betting and pornographic sites.
Also, female students reported a high incidence of being blackmailed with their nude pictures for either money or sex on social media platforms.
Dr Albert Antwi- Boasiako, Director General of the Cyber Security Authority (CSA), said on Tuesday at a Child Online Protection Forum in Accra held for the media and children.
The forum coincided with the celebration of this year’s Africa Safer Internet Day (2023) under the theme: “Empowering the African Child on Safer Internet”.
The day brought together students from pre-tertiary schools, officials from the Ghana Education Service, law makers, officials of CSA, selected media personnel and Civil Society Organisations, among others.
The occasion focused on strategies to empower children in the digital environment.
Dr Antwi Boasiako noted that free, open and secured internet was a powerful tool that promoted connectivity and social inclusiveness and foster development.
However, the Director General of CSA, said due to the misuse of digital tools, lack of proper safeguards and their vulnerability, children continued to experience violence, exploitation and abuse from perpetrators and ruthless criminals online.
Dr Antwi-Boasiako said a report by UNICEF Ghana indicated that more than 13,000 images and videos of child sexual abuse were reportedly accessed and or uploaded from Ghana in the year 2020.
“According to INTERPOL’s global Crime Trends Key Finding in 20222, Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA) was ranked among the top ten crime trends perceived to pose a ‘high’ or very high threat to countries.”
The Director General of CSA lamented over a recent BBC study, which disclosed that children as young as nine years had been exposed to pornography on the internet.
According to him studies from other Western countries had even recorded even younger ages in that regard.
“Though alarming , social exploitation and abuse is just one form of illegal or harmful content or conduct impacting young people online.
“Tragedies befalling young people and families across the globe through online grooming on social media have highlighted the need to address the risk of violence against Children.
“ Violence such as suicide and self-harming behaviours, cyberbullying, cyberstalking, impersonation, exposure to hate speech, self-depreciation, identity theft and many others,” he said.
Dr Antwi -Boasiako said the CSA later this year, would be developing a legislative instrument to the Cyber Security Act, 2020 (Act 1038), which would have provisions to hold “non-compliant service providers accountable for the collection of children’s data without parental consent and refusing or neglecting to report harmful content.
“We hope the private sector will disclose and report incidents of harmful contents against children to the Authority to help keep our children safe.”
He said to enhance awareness creation and train the next generation of cyber security professionals, the CSA had instituted the National Cybersecurity Challenge for Senior High Schools in the year 2022, adding the challenge would be scaled up this year.
The Director General of CSA appealed to parents and responsible adults to develop interest in what their children did online and help them address challenges as soon as they picked danger signals.
“Let’s tell them about the potential dangers they may face online and teach them the websites and applications to avoid. Let us develop a relationship of trust with our children so that we are always the first point of call when they need to confide in someone,” he stressed.
Madam Felicity Ahiafianyo, Public Relations Officer, National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, called for the establishment of a fund to support CSAawareness creation and the fight to get rid of society of child abusers online as well create safety buffers for the protection of children.