The Internet has brought untold benefits to children around the world, with the number of connected households increasing each year. The potential for good is undisputed as it creates unprecedented opportunities for children and young people to connect, share, learn, access information, communicate and express their opinions on matters that affect their lives and their communities.
The Internet has become increasingly accessible young people, especially Nigerian children, both at home and in schools. While surfing the Internet, children and young people participate in a dynamic online environment that allows them to generate, manipulate and consume Internet content like never before, cementing their place and identity in online communities.
However, the Internet has also raised new and disturbing issues of vulnerability, especially where children are concerned. These are growing concerns on the distribution of abuse materials targeted at children, making them vulnerable to child cyber bullying, harassment, exploitation, extremism, brainwashing for terrorist acts, violence and human trafficking resulting into unpleasant consequences of the information age.
To reduce the risks posed by digital revolution while enabling more children and young people to reap its benefits, governments, civil society, local communities, international organizations and the private sector must come together for this common purpose. A couple of efforts are been made to engender online child protection in Nigeria. For example, the aims and objectives of the Ndukwe Kalu Foundation, a Special purpose Vehicle (SPV), established by NiRA, includes “to provide advocacy for child online protection” and “to promote knowledge in ICT and proper use of the Internet”.
The Technology Industry has a critical role to play in establishing the foundations for safer and more secure use of the Internet for today’s child and the future generations. Businesses must put child protection at the heart of their work, paying special attention to protecting the privacy of young users’ personal data, preserving their right to freedom of expression, and putting systems in place to address violations of children’s rights when they occur.
Protecting children online is a global challenge, which requires a global approach. While many efforts to improve child online protection are already under way, more needs to be done to continuously protect our children online.