How to protect your child online

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Twenty-nine per cent of Kenyan children do not know how to protect themselves online or where they can learn such information. This is according to a 2013 UNICEF report titled A (Private) Public Space:
A (Private) Public Space:Examining the Use and Impact of Digital and Social Media Among Adolescents in Kenya that surveyed a group of 12 to 17 year olds in the country.  This worrying statistic is compounded by the fact that 42 per cent of Kenyan youth have access to the access the internet two to three times per week yet a number of them may even be aware of the risks the internet poses.

It is this lack of information on child online protection that Watoto Watch Network hopes to bridge through the talks and trainings it provides.
“In our trainings we have come to realise that children are aloof when it comes to the risks involved with the use of the internet so apart from teaching children, parents and teachers on the dangers found online, we also show them how to protect themselves,” said Lillian Kariuki, Executive Director of Watoto Watch Network.

One of the ways Kenyan children can protect themselves from on line abuse is by the use of privacy settings.
“Most teenagers use the internet to connect with friends or meet new ones so social media sites are very popular with them. We show them practically how to put privacy settings on these sites,” said Kariuki.

Facebook a popular social networking site among Kenyan teenagers for instance only allows children thirteen years and up to open a profile. They also provide various tips on how to stay safe on their platform. Twitter, another popular site also offers ways of reporting inappropriate content
such as child sexual exploitation.

Parental controls can also be placed on internet-enabled gadgets such as smartphones, laptops, tablets or provided by one's Internet Service Provider (ISP), There are also softwares, some of which are free that install filters for safer internet use.

All these controls are not of much use if parents are not willing to talk to their children about how to use the internet in a safe manner.
“Parents need to first educate themselves on the sites their children are using and the risks involved so that they can better teach them how to protect themselves,” said Kariuki. “Children are very tech savvy today and some may even know how to remove the filters and controls but if they understand the dangers lurking on the internet then they will be more careful,” she added.

The 2013 UNICEF report also chimes in when it comes to the parent gap in child online safety.
“Participants said their parents often use fear, instead of informative conversations, to restrict online and social media use, and they don’t provide explanations for their restrictions. It is rarely about educating young people on their digital safety,” said the report.

It is no wonder that 64 per cent of the adolescents surveyed  in the report would prefer learning about online protection from their friends.

Watoto Watch Network largely works to prevent child online abuse through information sharing but if it does happen they have mechanisms in place on how to report it to the authorities.
“We have partnered with the Cybercrime Unit of the CID so if parents suspect their child has been abused online we can help them lodge a complaint,” said Kariuki.

Watoto Watch also invites the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to their trainings to further inform people on the procedure of reporting a crime.  By February 2016, Watoto Watch would also like to launch a helpline for child online abuse.

To find out more about how child online safety and the trainings offered by Watoto Watch Network, contact them on +254 701 077955, +254 787 315855, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit their website.

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