The Internet has considerably changed the way that children interact with the world. They have access to a lot of information, tools to express their creativity, and people from all over the world. Yet along with offering a fascinating, new way to connect with the world, the Internet also offers new risks. A study carried out in Ghana with the support of UNICEF on the risks and opportunities related to child online practices revealed that 7 out of 10 children/adolescents use the internet for learning. However, the same study reports 4 out of 10 children /adolescents interviewed said they don’t feel safe when they are online and 3 in 10 children /adolescents had experienced something that bothered or upset them while online.
Child Online Protection is an initiative established by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to promote awareness of child safety in the online world and to develop practical tools to assist governments, industry and educators. It includes the measures put in place to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation within the online space while promoting the benefits of the use of the internet for children.
Risks children are exposed via the internet
Bullying is the repeated and deliberate use of aggression and power to cause physical pain or emotional distress. It can be verbal or physical (hitting, punching, pushing etc.) use unpleasant and humiliating or threatening gestures, or use social coercion and social exclusion, or any combination of these.
Cyberbullying or online bullying is bullying using technologies, particularly over the internet or via mobile or gaming networks. Some of the activities which may be termed as cyber bullying include intimidating and threatening to injure someone or his/her family’s reputation, being called mean names and posting rumors or sexual remarks about someone , making someone do something bad or illegal and stalking, that is tracking someone or collecting information about them and their activities. Victims may have lower self-esteem, and a variety of emotional responses, including being scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed.
Online Sexual Exploitation
Sexual abuse is engaging in implicit or explicit sexual acts with a child or forcing a child to engage in sexual acts alone or with another person of any age of the same or opposite sex. Sexual abuse does not always involve physical contact but can also include non-physical contact such as involving children in watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually explicit ways and exposing them to inappropriate sexual material. Children in exploitative situations or relationships are offered or receive something such as gifts, money or just attention or affection as a result of performing sexual activities with them.
Online Sexual Exploitation happens when, a child or young person is persuaded or forced to
The child online practices study revealed that 4 out of 10 children/adolescents interviewed said they have seen sexual images while online. The same study reported about 1 in 10 children/adolescents has sent, shared or posted sexual messages (words, pictures or videos). In most cases, online sexual exploitation begins with grooming, this is the process an adult use to manipulate minors into sexual relationships or into producing sexual images of themselves. It often includes the giving of compliments or gifts.
Children and young people who use the internet stand the risk of encountering online predators. Online predators are individuals who use the Internet to connect with minors in order to develop a sexual relationship. This may mean getting the minor to meet face-to-face and/or convincing the minor to produce or allow sexual images to be taken of him or herself Revealing too much personal information
Learning to recognize the warning signs of these risks will help to prevent or lessen potential negative impacts. Parents and caregivers can help make the Internet a safer place for their children and families. As a parent or guardian, you should stay well-informed about current issues to understand what your children are experiencing on and off the Internet.
What can you do to keep safe online
1. You should try to protect your privacy online. Avoid revealing personal information about yourself or sharing someone else’s personal information online. This is risky because it can spread very quickly and can reach people you may not want it to. Personal information that you shouldn’t share online includes:
2. Only accept friendship requests from people you know. Accepting friend requests from people you don’t know may put you in danger and you can be exploited.
3. Never meet in person anyone you just met online without the consent of your parents/caregiver. To keep yourself safe, always go in the company of a trusted adult and meet in a public place.
4. Talk to a trusted adult if you receive messages or come across websites that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.