- Vallarie Yiega (Tech Policy Fellow- Lawyers Hub)
- April 19, 2022
- Online Child Protection: A Multistakeholder Approach
Since 2003, every 8th of February the world has celebrated a Safer Internet Day. In particular, over the years, the day has been commemorated across regions with the formation of alliance organizations to promote this day. Nevertheless, the pertinent question that remains and which is significantly critical, is what Safer Internet Day is and what it seeks to achieve. Generally, the goal of celebrating a Safer Internet Day is to make the internet safer for people online, especially children and young people.
While everyone using the internet needs to feel safe online and should be protected, children are more vulnerable. This is because they face challenges such as cyberbullying, sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Yet exacerbated by Covid-19 pandemic, children's use of the internet has substantially increased. According to UNICEF, ‘children are spending more time online than ever before. And they’re getting there sooner. Around the world, a child goes online for the first time every half second’. This calls for concerted efforts in providing a safer online place for children
During the 2020 Africa Safer Internet Day organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Child Online Africa, a civil organization based in Accra, Ghana noted that there is a need to protect child online safety and manage child internet access threat. Equally important, we are more likely to succeed in safeguarding our children if every stakeholder plays their part. The participation may include creation of awareness, capacity building and implementation of policies. Thus, I argue for a multi stakeholder approach.
Multistakeholder Approach to Online Child Protection.
What then is the multistakeholder approach? This approach refers to action by diverse actors, coordinating with each other to implement specific policy. As a result of the benefits that accrue from this multi-stakeholder approach, many organizations are preferring a multistakeholder approach to ensure there is global impact that is coupled with the local action. Some of the key stakeholders include government agencies, private sector, academia, technical community and civil society organizations.
Multi-stakeholder Approach to Safer Internet in Kenya
This year we have witnessed a myriad of multi stakeholder approaches aimed to build a better and safer internet for Kenyan children. Reports by the Kenya National Bureau of statistics show that approximately 20.6 million children above the age of three use a mobile phone. Subsequently, the growing access to technology and the internet by children has also increased cases of child exploitation online. Therefore, there is need to arrest this situation and ensure a safer internet for children and young people.
So far, in ensuring a safer internet for children, several agencies in Kenya have developed a number of strategies. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) partnered with Usiku Games, to launch Cyber Soldjas game. Usiku games is a company that creates games that make a positive impact on society. Moreover, CAK taking a multi-stakeholder approach includes in the game online reporting channels in partnerships with Childline Kenya, the Cradle Foundation, the Kenya Association of Professional Counselors, Department of Children Service and the Government’s Cyber Incident Response Team.
The Cyber Soldjas, generally, teaches children how to recognize online threats and fight them, and can be played on the phone or tablet. In particular, Cyber Soldjas explores harmful content that should be avoided or reported when you are exposed to it online. The use of games to keep children safe is preferred because it creates engagement among children who are already using smartphones. Increasing their knowledge on conduct, contact and content risks. Thus, children can access safe content and learn how to identify the online threats. Equally important, Usiku games also have other games made in Africa that touch on topics such as contributing to education, financial savings, and positive social nudges.
Cyber Soldjas is recommended for children between four and fourteen years so as to instill moral values with each of the levels that are conquered. To access the game, a user needs to have a working internet connection and a smartphone. A user goes to the CAK website available at https://www.ca.go.ke/play-cyber-soljas/ .When the user clicks the link, they are redirected to the Usiku Games platform. Users can then get a chance to play the game.
The game has five options that appear as levels including catphish, cybercrime, cyberbullying, ID theft and fake news. As the names suggest, each option addresses that particular challenge. Cyber Soldjas relies heavily on metaphors and stimulating the mind. For example with the cyberbullying level, a user can pick up items such as collectibles which have short and important messages. An example is one that states that you need to be kind and not be tempted to hide behind a strange username to tease or joke about someone as it may be hurtful towards them.
Parents and children can access information on online resources which redirect you to ways in which you can get help on child protection whether you are a parent or a child. For the children, the platform provides SMART tips on how to use the internet. For example, telling someone about your concerns, setting your limit in terms of what you are comfortable with sharing online, and being careful about meeting online friends offline. In cases where you need to meet people offline then go with the company of a trusted adult or guardian.
In conclusion, the Internet belongs to all of us and therefore, we should aim to create a stronger, better and safer internet. Moreover, just like in the offline world, children are extremely vulnerable online and we should ensure that we provide sufficient child protection. A multistakeholder approach to the protection of children online is highly encouraged especially in the age of digital transformation where everyone is online leaving no room for children to be left behind.