According to a recent survey by Kaspersky Lab, 27 per cent of Nigerian parents do not watch video blogs and are not sure what is popular among modern kids. However, the kids themselves are interested in watching such content: one third of children in Nigeria watch video blogs, including those dedicated to games and toys (60%), movies (51%), music (43%) and computer games (32%).
In Kaspersky Lab’sperspective, modern parents have to constantly educate themselves and keep upto date when it comes to the Internet trends. And it says there is a strongreason for it – their children. It argues that If parents do not know what is popular on the Net, they can havemisunderstandings or even conflicts with their children. It turns out, the Labfound, not all the parents keep up with current trends online and have enoughknowledge about content that their children prefer.
Now, telecommunications sector regulator, the NigerianCommunications Commission(NCC), has come up with an advisory that will helpparents and guardians reclaim their mandate as far as regulating the onlinebehavior of their children and wards is concerned. The Commission says it has taken into consideration theInternational Edition of Europol COVID-19 Global Online Safety Advice forParents and Carers, and the ITU’s Keeping Children Safe Online during theCOVID-19 Pandemic in developing thisdocument that serves as a guide that will help Parents and Carers/Guardiansduring and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Titled , KeepingChildren Safe Online : Advice To Parents And Caregivers, the advisory isarranged in a well organized format and available in pdf and MSword versions:
• Creatinga Balance: ‘Opportunity’ versus ‘Risk’
• What todo to keep children safe online
• What arethe risks children face online?
• Childonline safety talking points between parent/carer and a child..
The advisory also contains short codes of public(TOLL FREE)and telephone numbers of private stakeholders (TOLL FREE For Children And NonTOLL FREE For Adults) that both parents and children can call to receive helpon child online rights protection.
Nations are presently grappling with the impact of COVID-19,including the fact that young people are compelled to spend more time at homewhich implies, more screen time (offline and online).
The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has brought to bear a shiftin the norms, putting more activities, including education of children, online.This has leapfrogged Nigerian children into the future. Online activities haveacquired new meaning and become the reality of Nigerian parents and children.Screen time and screen activities are the new normal. Parents are constantlysearching for online learning platforms, TV stations are providing morechild-based educational content and schools are teaching via Zoom, GoogleClassroom and YouTube. Cyberspace, the internet and online activities are hereto stay. The future has arrived, welcome!!
The fusion of children and the internet has not given birthto new concerns as is widely perceived, it has magnified the critical need forparents and care givers to step up to the new norms of Online Life forChildren, thus the need for Online Parenting. Concerns of safety and privacyhave been with us from the beginning of time. What has changed however, is theinvisible and borderless nature of these concerns and the magnitude of theconsequences when they occur.
Parents have to contend with the overwhelming and scarypossibility of a child being hurt by faceless individuals while surfing theinternet, and a perceived inability/incapability to protect the child.
The good news is that the internet is not all gloom anddoom. The internet is a world of endless possibilities waiting to be exploredby young, adventurous and impressionable minds. Undoubtedly, there are manygreat ways children can use connected devices to learn and play, but there arealso risks. With the right tools and strategy, parents and caregivers have theopportunity to support and guide children to avoid online risks and have saferexperiences.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant change in mode ofoperation has compelled all stakeholders, parents, care givers, governments andindustry players, to actively pursue, create and promote a safe onlineenvironment for children.
Here, we provide practical online safety tips for parents,care givers, and children. It covers what to do before things go wrong, whilechildren spend time online, and what to do if things go wrong.
Creating A Balance:‘Opportunity’ Versus ‘Risk’
Child online abuse is a societal concern which is beingexacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries are developing measures toaddress and provide significant assurance of online safety for children, theirfamilies, and society at large. Let us be clear, online safety is not thenon-existence of harm or risk, rather it is creating the atmosphere oropportunity to overcome the risks while enjoying the inherent benefits of usingthe internet.
Educating young children about cyber safety is complicated,as young children often do not understand the social and technical complexitiesof the internet. This difficulty in understanding arises because the internetis virtual and cannot be experienced firsthand by the sense. As computers areusually in a place children perceive as safe, the risks are not readilyapparent to them. They do not understand that the computer can be networked andconnected beyond the safe place to a world that can be both risky anddangerous. Young children and most adults, do not realize that materials postedon the internet often times, do not have external controls or standards tosubscribe to.
What To Do To KeepChildren Safe Online
To keep children safe online, parents and care giversshould:
1. Anticipaterisks: Anticipation of risks will lead to appropriate control measures beingput 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 educatedabout the use of your devices and the devices your child has access to. Stayinformed on various social network sites and what happens on them. Stayinformed and better educated than your children and wards. Make them understandthat you know as much or more than they do. Therefore, be their go-to personfor information on what to do with the device you eventually give them accessto.
Care Givers should be trained on how to guide children inonline activities: Schools have adopted the use of online platforms foreducation. Care must be taken to educate the teachers and prepare them for theavalanche of questions from children, on the use of various online applicationsor whatever information the children encounter online.
The teachers are major support networks and pillars in thelife of any child. They are oftentimes as trusted as parents are.
Install child appropriate apps/search engines: Before adevice is given to a child, age appropriate applications should first beinstalled on it. This will protect the child from inadvertently stumbling intowrong sites that appear as pop-ups.
Install firewall: Firewalls act as content filters. They helpmake sure non-age appropriate content does not appear on the child’s device.
Set timers on all devices used by the child: This helps tocreate discipline and structure for the child. Ensure clear time boundaries areset.
2. Empowerthe child: This is one of the most important steps any parent can take. Thereis a sense of privacy associated with being online. Parents will not always bethere when children go online. Adopting a child–centric approach to the use ofthe internet prepares the child for unforeseen issues and assures the child ofthe trust and respect of his/her parent.
Children will enjoy the benefits and advantages of theinternet when they know how to stay in control and not allow themselves to bevictims of the platforms and devices.
a. Set ground rulesand instructions in collaboration with the child.
b. Teach children basic online safety skills and how toapply them.
3.Pay attention/be observant: As children spend more timeonline, observe behavioral patterns and changes. Recognize unusual activities,actions and reactions. Where any change is observed, calmly address thosechanges and allow the child sufficient room to talk without being judgmental.The home is a safety net for children. It is also the best support system thatallows an abused child recover from abuse and provides a means for managingpost abuse trauma. Children need to know they can go to their parents withwhatever concerns they encounter online.
4. Discussand Engage your Children:
Ask how your children use the internet. Make them show yousome of their favorite sites and discuss with them, make them aware that thereare things on the internet which may upset them and that they can always talkto you or any trusted adult.
Make sure your child realizes that he or she should nevergive out personal details, such as name, address, school, and telephonenumbers, to online friends they do not know in the real world.
Tell the child to never respond to junk emails or openattachments that are from unknown sources.
Be aware of any changes in the way a child uses theinternet, such as the amount of time spent online. Also support your child toreport bullying online, by contacting you immediately it occurs.
Encourage children to use nicknames and login names thatdon’t reveal any personal information about them.
Educate children on the possibility of people using fakenames purposely to cheat, hurt or impersonate others.
Use the parental control settings on your browser, searchengine and internet security package.
Work with your child to understand how search engines workso that they don’t stumble on inappropriate content.
Consider using the filtering software that is available fromyour internet service provider or from retailers, these can help blockinappropriate material. Check with your internet service provider to learn howto block sites you don’t want children to see.
Gain the child’s or young person’s confidence by appealingto his or her interests, teach them to think twice before they upload ordownload anything online.
5. If your child is using online platforms or programmes forschoolwork, ensure a healthy balance between non-school related onlineactivities and offline time.
Here are some helpful tips:
During non-school hours at home, establish time limitsaround when and for how long your child can be online.
Use the available technologies — parental controls and toolsto monitor online time allow you to measure and set time limits on device useor internet access. Be honest and open about why you want to use these technologies.
Turn off notifications for social media apps to helpminimize distractions.
Depending on your child’s age, you can establish a familytech agreement that balances time spent in front of screens with offlineactivities. You can find templates by searching online.
Include ‘offline’ activities in your routine at home — thiscan include family exercise, reading time or board games.
6. Modelgood behaviour in your use of media and digital devices. Generally, children will imitate what theysee in the influencers around them. Hence, parents and carers must take activesteps to ensure that they set the ideal example for online behaviour, thatchildren can follow. We suggest some tips below:
Set a time to your own media usage
Where you use media or devices heavily due to work, it isimportant to explain this to children so they understand
Avoid forwarding content to your children that you have notverified Share lessons with childrenabout other adults who have lost out of opportunities due to their onlineactivities
7. Useparental controls and safe search options:
Parental controls are software tools that allow you tomonitor and limit what your child sees and does online. They can be used tofilter harmful content, such as ‘adult’ or sexual material, and to monitor,time-limit or block your child’s use of connected devices and functions such ascameras. While parental controls can be effective tools to help control andlimit what your child does online, they are not foolproof. There is no substitutefor active parental engagement and oversight of a child’s online activities.Helping your child build good online safety habits is just as important.
How do I use parental controls?
Check if your wi-fi router has software that allows you toset up parental controls across your whole family wi-fi network. Search onlinefor reputable child-friendly wi-fi products using terms like ‘child friendlyrouters’, ‘child friendly wi-fi’, ‘family friendly routers’ and ‘child safewifi’.
Check out the parental controls available on most tablets,smartphones, computers, TVs and gaming consoles. Look at: Windows, Mac OS,Apple (from iOS12), Android using Google Play or Google Family Link.
Use the PIN code locking feature on smart TVs ordisconnecting the TV from the internet if you are not using the ‘smart’features.
Use parental controls to limit your child’s cellular/mobiledata usage.
Use the parental control measures on streaming services andgaming consoles to help manage gaming activity. Search for the streaming serviceor console name and ‘parental controls’ to see your options.
Download or purchase family safety controls or filters. Tofind a filter that is right for you, search online using terms like ‘internetfilters’ or ‘family filters’ and check out its reviews.
Set up child-friendly search engines or select safe searchsettings on digital devices to help prevent your child from stumbling acrossinappropriate sites and content.
8. Safebrowsing tips
Encourage younger children to always ask an adult beforeclicking on an ‘Accept’, ‘Allow’ or ‘OK’ button on a website as sites maydisplay other messages or disclaimers that require a response.
Set up bookmarks in your child’s browser for sites you wouldlike them to use. Learn how to adaptfiltering tool settings to reflect each user’s age and skills if multiplemembers of your family share a device or programme.
Be aware that many search engines also contain advertisingand know there is always a risk that inappropriate material could still slipthrough.
What Are The Risks Children Face Online?
Children face several risks on the internet. These risks canbe grouped into four broad categories.
1.Content Risk: Consists of harmful information and materialthat children encounter online. For example, pornography, violence, fake news(mis-information).
2.Contact Risk: Meeting online friends offline can lead tonegative consequences. Online grooming can also occur. This is a situationwhere a person befriends a young person to gain their confidence and thensexually abuses them. There are other physical and psychological risks thatcould lie in a young person building friendships with strangers online.
3.Conduct Risk: It includes game addiction, mobile phoneoveruse impaired sight, loss of confidence and reputational harm due tounguided comments.
4.Commercialization Risk: This is the risk children facefrom being exposed to making willing and unwilling commercial decisions online– including giving out personal data, gambling and shopping addiction.
Child Online Safety Talking Points Between Parent/Carer And A Child
It is advisable that these questions are asked as part of aconversation (it is advisable not to adopt a confrontational approach) or in agame form, to avoid the child being evasive or untruthful.
1. On the average,how many hours do you spend online daily? Take note that the time a childspends online may include time spent on academic or other learning activity.
2. What activity, will you say you spend most time on, whenonline?
Whatever activity they mention, check to see that they arenot engaging excessively. It is important that a healthy balance is createdbetween online activities and offline activities. Online addiction for whateverreason is unhealthy for the child.
3. Who do you turn to for advice on issues arising online?
Do not take it personal if your child says s/he speaks tosomeone else. Research has shown that most children will rather speak to theirpeers or other online friends. This is because they either feel uncomfortablehaving such conversations with their parents or they believe they know morethan their parents on online issues.
4. Have youbeen asked for a nude picture of yourself online? If yes, did you send thepicture when asked?
Sending nudes or sexting is common amongst young children.Those children who end up sending their pics do so because they trust theperson on the other end of the screen.
Children need to be made to understand that images whenshared may never leave the internet and can be reshared a million times andmore. It may follow the child to adulthood and such issues have been known tolead to deaths.
5. Do youhave friends/followers online who are strangers?
If yes, do not cut the child’s internet/smartphone usagebecause of this alone. Having strangers as friends could serve as anopportunity for children to discover and express themselves. However, itprovides the platform for online grooming of children which portends greatdanger for children.
Social Network Sites (SNS) have also increased theopportunities for such interactions. The more children are exposed to SNS, thegreater the potential for online-offline contacts and negative emotionalexposure.
Parents must handle this line of conversation carefully inorder not to push the child right into the arms of evil strangers.
6. Have you ever beenbullied online?
Find out how they felt and together discuss solutions. Donot make them feel punished twice by blaming them for being bullied. Researchshows that 20.8 per cent of children within the 12-16 years bracket have eitherbullied or been bullied online. Bullying is becoming a common phenomenononline.
Four tips to help protect your children online
1. Buildtrust by keeping communication open and supportive:
Your child knows they can come to you if something goeswrong or does not feel right online.
Watch TV, play games and enjoy digital platforms with yourchildren.
Discuss online opportunities, entertainment, learning andrisks.
2. Be theparent, offline and online, by setting limits, controls and standards:
Set time limits for all activities, including onlineactivities. Balance screen time with other activities.
Set location for device use. Where possible, use desktopsnot mobile devices. Keep devices away from private locations like bedrooms.
Set up parental controls and filters for harmful content.
Have clear agreements on online activities.
Be alert to signs of distress or problems.
3. Make sureyour child/children understand(s) the ‘SMART RULES’:
S: Safe- Donot give out personal information when chatting or uploading online. Personalinformation includes your email address, phone number and passwords.
M: Meeting-Meeting someone you have only been chatting with online can be unsafe.
A: Accepting-Accepting emails, IM messages, or opening files, pictures or text messages frompeople you don’t know or trust can lead to problems; they may contain virusesor horrible messages.
R: Reliable-Someone online might lie about who they are and the information on the internetmay not be true. Always check information with other websites, books or someonewho is knowledgeable. If you like chatting online it’s best to only chat withreal world friends and family.
T: Tell- Tell your parent or trusted adult if someone orsomething makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, or if you or someone youknow is being bullied online.
4. Lead byexample:
Show respect in youronline platform language and content.
Help your child todevelop digital intelligence and social and emotional skills such as respect,empathy, critical thinking and resilience. Help your child practice and become a responsible online citizen.
NCC Toll Free Line: 622
Cece Yara Foundation: 08008008001(for children, toll free) 07007007001 (for adults, non toll free)
- Editor’s Note: The Cece Yara Foundation is achild-centred non-profit organization.
• This ADVISORY is published in furtherance of the corporate socialresponsibility (CSR) service of Cyber Era in support of the Industry RegulatoryAuthority, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.