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CHILD ONLINE PROTECTION WILL STAKEHOLDERS SUCCEED?

By NBF News

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector was rudely woken up recently when stakeholders realised that the Nigerian child is not adequately protected online. With one voice at the function organised by Consumer Affairs Burea (CAB), an arm of the regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), stakeholders reiterated the need to protect children from the evils associated with Internet usage, despite its enormous benefits.

Tagged: 'Stakeholders consultative forum on child online protection' , Acting Executive Vice Chairman NCC, Bashir Gwandu, stressed that children are the most active and vulnerable participants online and as such deserves 100 per cent online protection .

He reeled out that children are mostly vulnerable to desktop daters, fraudsters, terrorist as well as racisist.

Gwandu noted that 60 per cent of children use internet, while three out of four is willing to divulge information about themselves and families online. One in five is hackers target and 30 per cent of teenage girls are said to be sexually harassed but only seven per cent inform their parents.

'The Nigerian population, from 2006 census, records youth from 10 to 24 years to be about 45.4 million in number, and quite a number of children and teenagers in primary and secondary school possess mobile phones that are internet enabled'.

Gwandu elaborated that the emergence of new technological devices comes with its growing risks, especially where children are continuously exposed to paedophiles and cybercrimes.

'According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) survey of 2008, there are over 1.5 billion people online, up from under 200 million people in 1998. About 90 percent are teenagers and young adults. 60 percent of children talk in chat rooms on a daily basis, while three in four children online are willing to share personal information about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and service.

'One in five children is being targeted by a predator or paedophile every year, while 30 percent of teenage girls say they have been sexually harassed in a chat room. Only seven percent tell their parents, for fear their online access will be limited', he said.

Chief executive officer of e-Worldwide Group, United Kingdom, Salma Abbasi, disclosed that after Middle-East, Africa is the second largest growing continent of Internet penetration.

'The most important usage of the Internet to children should be to make research, learn, and gain more knowledge; but the top five uses of children online are: social networking, pornography and other explicit sites, gaming like gambling, violence sites, and entertainment and music,' said Ms. Abbasi.

She explained that emerging risks to the usage of Internet also affects the culture, values, and behaviours of children and that it necessitates why children must be protected.

The gathering of think tanks agreed that in order to set up a child online protection, Nigeria must first put in place policies and guidelines to protect children and support parents, teachers, and service providers.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer, Cyber Solution Africa, Stella Hunter, reminded the gathering that children and young people are the future of the world.

'Universally, they are the greatest assets and users of Internet. This universal fact, coupled with Nigerian young people's vulnerability in cyberspace environment, makes a specialised initiative such as Nigerian Child Online Protection Act to address these issues.'

Ms. Hunter explained that government, service providers, parents, enforcement agencies, and industry professionals must be ready to work together to implement the right strategy to protect the Nigerian child.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Sylvester Anyanwu admoshed Nigerian children and youths to engage their brains positively. He pinpointed Bill Gates and other technology innovation achievers who used their brains positively and are among the richest in the world.

He stressed that the negative use of the internet is the problem and not the internet itself.

On the other hand, Chairman, House Committee on Communications, Dave Salako also added that now is the time to come up with strategies and harness the ideas into reality.

The NCC boss also disclosed that plans are underway to partner with other countries that have special software that would prevent any child or teenager from accessing irrelevant and evil sites.