The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has provided tips for parents and caregivers on how to keep children safe online, saying that the tips cover what to do before things go wrong, while children spend time online, and what to do if things go wrong.
The Commission in a document titled: ‘Keeping children safe online: Advice to parents and caregivers,’ listed the tips to include: Risk Anticipation, and advised parents that anticipation of risks will lead to appropriate control measures being put in place before a child is allowed access to digital devices or the internet. Some of these anticipatory control measures according to the NCC include Parental education:
“As a parent, stay informed and educated about the use of your devices and the devices your child has access to. Stay informed on various social network sites and what happens on them. Stay informed and better educated than your children and wards. Make them understand that you know as much or more than they do. Therefore, be their go-to person for information on what to do with the device you eventually give them access to.”
The NCC advised that Caregivers should be trained on how to guide children in Online activities: “Schools have adopted the use of online platforms for education. Care must be taken to educate the teachers and prepare them for the avalanche of questions from children, on the use of various online applications or whatever information the children encounter online.”
While noting that the teachers are major support networks and pillars in the life of any child, the NCC stated that they are oftentimes as trusted as parents are. It, therefore, listed the following tips for parents and caregivers:
Install child-appropriate apps/search engines: Before a device is given to a child, age-appropriate applications should first be installed on it. This will protect the child from inadvertently stumbling into wrong sites that appear as pop-ups.
Install a firewall: Firewalls act as content filters. They help make sure non-age appropriate content does not appear on the child’s device.
Set timers on all devices used by the child: This helps to create discipline and structure for the child. Ensure clear time boundaries are set.
Empower the child: This is one of the most important steps any parent can take. There is a sense of privacy associated with being online. Parents will not always be there when children go online. Adopting a child-centric approach to the use of the internet prepares the child for unforeseen issues and assures the child of the trust and respect of his/her parent.
Furthermore, the NCC noted that children will enjoy the benefits and advantages of the internet when they know how to stay in control and not allow themselves to be victims of the platforms and devices.
Towards this end, the Commission advised parents and caregivers to among other things, set ground rules and instructions in collaboration with the child; and teach children basic online safety skills and how to apply them.
Pay attention/be observant: As children spend more time online, observe behavioural patterns and changes. Recognize unusual activities, actions and reactions. Where any change is observed, calmly address those changes 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 that allows an abused child to recover from abuse and provides a means for managing post abuse trauma. Children need to know they can go to their parents with whatever concerns they encounter online.
Discuss and engage your children: Ask how your children use the internet. Make them show you some of their favourite sites and discuss with them, make them aware that there are things on the internet which may upset them and that they can always talk to you or any trusted adult.
-Make sure your child realizes that he or she should never give out personal details, such as name, address, school, and telephone numbers; to online friends they do not know in the real world.
-Tell the child to never respond to junk emails or open attachments that are from unknown sources.
-Be aware of any changes in the way a child uses the internet, such as the amount of time spent online. Also support your child to report bullying online, by contacting you immediately it occurs.
-Encourage children to use nicknames and login names that don’t reveal any personal information about them.
-Educate children on the possibility of people using fake names purposely to cheat, hurt or impersonate others.
-Use the parental control settings on your browser, search engine and internet security package.
-Work with your child to understand how search engines work so that they don’t stumble on inappropriate content.
-Consider using the filtering software that is available from your internet service provider or from retailers, these can help block inappropriate material.
-Check with your internet service provider to learn how to block sites you don’t want children to see.
-Gain the child’s or young person’s confidence by appealing to his or her interests, teach them to think twice before they upload or download anything online.