ByÂ Emeka Aginam, Asst. Online Editor
While moreÂ Â children and young people globally useÂ the internet for growth and development, the African Information Security Association (AISA) has expressedÂ worriesÂ over vulnerability of children exposed to online content, saying m that something urgently has to be done to stem the tide of dangers that children and young people are exposed to online:
In a report of the World Information Society and Telecommunication Day _ â€œProtecting Children and Young People Onlineâ€ forum organizedÂ by AISA, sStakeholdersÂ including governments, parents, educators, counselors, psychologists, ICT professionals and NGOs who gathered at the event noted that children will continue to be exposed to the dangers online unless the governmentÂ promotes andÂ Â adoptsÂ policies and strategies that will protect children in cyberspace and promote their safe access to online resources.
The online dangers to which children and young people are becoming increasingly vulnerable , according to the conference include:Â Adult Pornography, Internet Fraud; Online Violence; Child Pornography/Paedophilia, Hate Culture; Counter Culture, Gambling, Sexual Solicitation, Drugs, Online Games Addiction, Impersonation, among others.
EvenÂ reeling out some disturbing statistics about the dangers which children and young people are exposed to as a result of the abuse of the Internet, AISAÂ warned Nigerians to stop playing dumb, urgingÂ Â all stakeholders to stop pretending about the ever evident online dangers that confront us all and do something towards stemming the ugly trend.
Parental Apathy: Because of the present economic realities,Â parents, according to the conferenceÂ are apathetical to what their children do, adding thatÂ most parents are not aware of the online risks which their children are exposed to. More worrisome is the low level of computer literacy among adults in Nigeria.
Institutional Weakness: Though the Internet remains largely unregulated,Â lack of adequate legislation on the Internet (cyber law),Â poor policing of the Internet (cyber policing),Â indifferent attitude of providers and the defective law enforcement to check cyber crimes, the conference observedÂ have made the unsuspecting Nigerian child and young person vulnerable to online dangers.
Besides, operations of cybercafes, the conference observedÂ are largely unregulated in Nigeria. Whatâ€™s more, most cyber criminals do not get punished.
Social Apathy: According to the conference, thereÂ is a poor level of awareness of the online risks which children and young people are exposed to.
Participants at the end of the conferenceÂ Â recommended the following action plansâ€*There should be a massive internet awareness campaign targeted particularly at parents, educators and counselors.
*There should be sustained collaborative efforts among stakeholders towards promoting a safe Internet culture among children and young people in Africa.
*Children, young persons, parents, educators as well as other stakeholders should make it a duty to always participate in information security activities.
*All concerned stakeholders need to help bridge the existing gap between the parents and children on one hand and the teachers and students on the other.
This should be done with a view to providing the much needed avenue through which the activities of children and young people on the Internet can be monitored and controlled. Imperative to this is the need for parents and teachers to develop their IT skills.
*Parents are enjoined to take interest in the cyberspace activities of their children. They are encouraged to install parental control software and appropriate online protection tools on their systems to help monitor and control what their children do online.
*Children and young people are advised to adopt well established Internet etiquette (Netiquette) while working online.
*Children and young people who patronise cybercafes should avoid and blacklist cybercafes where illegal online activities are condoned.
*All professionals within the ICT industry are urged, in the interest of the society, to adopt self regulation mechanisms towards reducing the prevalence of unethical materials online.
*Providers, especially those providing Internet access and service, should be actively involved in promoting information security for children while carrying out their business. They should show more social responsibility by participating actively in forums and related initiatives of this nature. Their absence at todayâ€™s forum speaks volumes.
*African governments should enact legislation to ensure appropriate Internet policing. Besides, the law enforcement agencies should be empowered to adequately deal with cybercrimes.
*Relevant government agencies, by way of promoting public good, should live up to their regulatory responsibilities by ensuring that cybercafÃ©s and service providers enhance information security particularly for children going online
*Governments should make information security including childrenâ€™s online protection a national priority. They should fund efforts and invest in promoting information security.
The programme was anchored by two young persons, Miss Iwere Ejitene of the Federal Government Girlsâ€™ College (FGGC), Sagamu, Ogun state and Master Ebuka Anumba of the Command Day Secondary School (CDSS), Ikeja.
Under the guidance of these impressive comperes the event took off with an opening prayer by a student of the Command Day Secondary School. This was followed with an introduction of the participating schools.
The Convener of the forum isÂ Mr. Jide Awe, Founder/CEO of Jidaw Systems Limitcampaigns against cybercrime.