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Children’s online safety is up to parents

Friday February 21 2020

cyberbullying

Through impersonation, a bully has the freedom to spread cruel messages about your child through public posts. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

FAUSTINE NGILA
By FAUSTINE NGILA
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I attended this year’s Safer Internet Day in Nairobi last week, where I realised that today’s parents must get more concerned about what their children do with their mobile phones.

The current generation of children  —  Generation Z  —  is more connected than previous generations, thanks to higher internet and smartphone penetration.

They consume online content with minimal restriction as their millennial parents are busy at work.

However, there are tons of risks associated with leaving them online unsupervised: harassment and bullying is one of them.

Cyberstalking, one form of cyberbullying that extends to physical harm, goes beyond constant monitoring, false accusations and threats to physical stalking.

Other times a bully can snatch your child’s phone, go to his or her social media accounts and post inappropriate content.

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PARENTAL CONTROL

Through this impersonation, the bully has the freedom to body-shame, spread cruel messages about your child through public posts or private messages on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

This is a serious health threat that leads to a drop in academic performance and self-esteem, meaning it affects cognition.

To ensure moral decadence of your child, pornographic material can be downloaded at will on that phone.

Facebook, the convener of the event, in partnership with Watoto Watch, a local child online safety organisation, has devised modern ways of ensuring parents control what goes into the brains of their children.

With the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the online safety of children has seen a major boost  —  but parents still need to stay close to check their children's phones.

Online parental controls have been designed to block harmful messages since, despite Facebook’s age requirement for opening an account of 13 years, your house help, for example, or a live-in relative, has all the time to open it for your five-year-old son and teach him how to watch obscene content.

SAFETY GUIDELINES

While it is the responsibility of social media platform owners to create channels for reporting, blocking, and controlling privacy, parents need awareness on how to utilise these tools.

It is the responsibility of parents to learn how to limit the words children search on the web, which should start by installing child-friendly apps to keep them busy with healthy cartoons and songs.

You have to limit the applications the device can download and help your child learn how to use facial recognition and fingerprints as passwords so that when she misplaces the phone, no one can use it for malicious purposes.

As schools fail to teach pupils these skills, and with Watoto Watch only able to reach pupils in four counties, every parent must learn and apply online child safety guidelines to ensure future generations live a healthy mental life.

Mr Ngila is a 4IR journalist at NMG @faustination

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