Creating a Balance: Opportunities Versus Risks In Keeping Children Safe Online.

Child online abuse is a societal concern which is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Countries are developing measures to address and provide significant assurance of online safety for children, their families, and society at large.

Let us be clear, online safety is not the non-existence of harm or risk, rather it is creating the atmosphere or opportunity to overcome the risks while enjoying the inherent benefits of using the internet.

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has taken into consideration the ‘International Edition of Europol COVID-19 Global Online Safety Advice for Parents and Carers’ and the ITU’s “Keeping Children Safe Online during the COVID-19 Pandemic” publications.

This article and others to come are based on a document that serves as a guide that will help Parents and Carers/Guardians during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Educating young children about cyber safety is complicated, as young children often do not understand the social and technical complexities of the internet.

This difficulty in understanding arises because the internet is virtual and cannot be experienced firsthand by the sense.

As computers are usually in a place children perceive as safe, the risks are not readily apparent to them.

They do not understand that the computer can be networked and connected beyond the safe place to a world that can be both risky and dangerous.

Young children and most adults need to be made to realize that materials posted on the internet often times, do not have external controls or standards to subscribe to.

To keep children safe online:

1. Anticipate risks

2. Empower the child

3. Pay attention/be observant

4. Discuss and engage with your children

5. Ensure a healthy balance between non-school related online activities and offline time.

6. Reduce your own time online to model positive behaviour

7. Use parental controls and safe search options

8. Teach safe browsing tips and set bookmarks for children.

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