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Safer Internet Day: Youth Online Safety A Grave Concern

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The 19th edition of Safer Internet Day was marked globally on Tuesday, 8 February 2022, under the theme “Together for a better internet“. The occasion is normally used to call upon all stakeholders to come together in order to make the internet a safer and better place for all, with an emphasis on children and young people.

In Kenya, the Kenya Film Classification Board hosted the event in collaboration with several partners and Google, convened an online forum (webinar) for stakeholders. Discussed were issues relating to a safer internet, the existing challenges and concerns and how the situation can be improved for the affected groups.

The partners who included Eveminet Communication Solutions, Content Development and Intellectual Property (CODE-IP) Trust and the Kenya Scouts Association. Eveminet are Family IT Consultants while CODE-IP is a non-profit championing for technology rights and online freedom. The Kenya Scouts Association (KSA) is the largest scouts organisation in Africa and the sixth-largest globally, with over 2.1 million young people who are members.

In a localised twist, Kenya’s Safer Internet Day highlighted: “All Fun and Games? Exploring Respect and Relationships Online”, with stakeholders celebrating positive and fun aspects while also calling on involved parties to be even more vigilant about the kind of content and information the youth access while they’re online. 

Addressing the participants who attended the online event, Christopher Wambua, the acting CEO at the Kenya Film and Classification Board (KFCB) said that the theme amplifies and resonates with the Board’s campaigns on Child Online Safety that aim at collectively creating safer online platforms for children and other vulnerable groups. 

Lauding the conveners of the session for their efforts, Wambua noted that the partnership is one of the many online and digital programs that they have initiated to champion child online safety.

“It is worth noting that KFCB has continued to collaborate with Google, Communication Authority of Kenya, Eveminet Communication Solutions and CODE-IP Trust, among other like-minded public and private sector agencies to create awareness on Child Online Safety and Digital Parenting with the aim of equipping parents with skills and knowledge on digital parenting and responsible use of the internet by children,” said Wambua.

“We are cognizant that with the current internet and technology growth, we cannot limit the online interaction and internet usage among the youths; therefore, there is a need for increased joint consumer awareness as we execute our regulatory mandate as stipulated in the Films and Stage Plays Act Cap222 of the Laws of Kenya.”

KCFB’s called for increased consumer awareness and vigilance as relates to the content youth online come at a time when reports indicate that predators are increasingly using social media and online gaming platforms to target potential victims (mainly women and girls) as these platforms offer anonymity and operate under very limited regulation.

report by OSEA published in late last year titled Ending Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Women and Girls: A Call for International Standards notes that “women and girls are particularly vulnerable as offenders take advantage of sex, gender, and structural discrimination. 

“The true scale of the problem is unknown because many cases go unreported due to stigma, victim-blaming, fear of retribution from perpetrators, and low confidence in criminal justice systems. This underreporting makes it harder for governments in Africa to develop and implement effective interventions because they lack accurate country data on the scale and nature of OSEA,” states the report. 

Aligning with this year’s global Safer Internet Day theme, “Together for a better Internet”, Google is actively working on new technologies that will provide a secure, seamless sign-in experience and eliminate reliance on passwords that have turned out to be a major cause for data breaches and phishing attempts. Users often find passwords hard to remember and have to update them regularly.

“We don’t just plug security holes, we work to eliminate entire classes of threats for people who depend on our services. Today alone, billions of people around the world will use our products to help with things big and small from conducting e-payment transactions or teaching an online class full of students. It is our responsibility to keep users’ personal information safe and secure,” says Michael Murungi, Public Policy & Government Relations Lead for Kenya and Eastern Africa.

Google provides tools like Security Checkup, which provides users with practical tips on how to increase the security of their Google Account. In 2021, Google accelerated its effort to eliminate password threats by starting to auto-enroll users in 2SV, providing people with an additional layer of security when cyber criminals attempt to hack into their accounts. Through the initiative, more than 1.5 billion security checks were done.

The Chief Guest, William Kisang’, the Marakwet West MP, and Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on ICT, said that Safer Internet Day celebrations are very significant because almost all homes now have some form of internet access and are exposed to all kinds of information and content, both beneficial and detrimental. 

“The current Parliament has enacted various legislations to protect internet users, such as Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act and Data Protection Act following which, the Office of the Data Commissioner is now constituted, active and already allocated funds for its operations. Then there’s the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act currently under discussion and we invite the public to come forward and give their thoughts on the document,” stated MP Kisang’. 

Touching on awareness creation and production of clean content, Mr Wambua said that KFCB, through its Public sensitization and Media Literacy program dubbed: #YouAreWhatYouConsume, has reached out to several schools (both primary and secondary) as well as most public and private universities in the country for sensitization on clean content consumption. 

“The Board is also in partnership with the Ministry of Education through the Kenya National Drama and Film Festival with the aim of identifying and nurturing talent among learners right from pre-school as well as to champion for clean content online and offline,” he said.

Daisy Achieng reported, “we have trained web rangers on how to stay safe online from; cyberbullying, sexual exploitation, pornography, radicalization and extremism amongst other vices in all 47 counties.” 

Given the opportunity, as a Leadership Academy, Kenya Scouts Association would like to train more adults who will, in turn, reach out to more young people, she added.

On future partnerships meant to enhance clean online content creation, the KFCB boss announced that the Board is in the process of collaborating with Ukaid, among other partners in a Digital Content Creation Skills Training program through which it will sensitize influencers, exhibitors, distributors and creatives on cyber hygiene and their obligations for child-friendly and age-appropriate digital content.  

KFCB is charged with the responsibility of regulating the creation, broadcasting, possession, distribution and exhibition of film and broadcast content. Regulation is meant to ensure that content conforms to Kenya’s culture, moral values and national aspirations as well as to protect children from exposure to harmful content.

Other participants included Kenya Scouts Web Rangers youth online safety ambassadors (Mike and Tanya), and teachers. The Centre for Mathematics, Science & Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA) leadership tuned in on the webinar.

Read: 5 Safety Tips For Empowering Experience For Youths Online

>>> Njeri Karago: Meet New KFCB Chairperson

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FRANCIS MULIhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
Editor and writer, Francis Muli has a passion for human interest stories. He holds a BSc in Communication and Journalism from Moi University and has worked for various organisations including Kenya Television Service. Email:[email protected]
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