A few years after I was born, my father met with a stranger. From the beginning, dad invited him to live with our family and the stranger quickly accepted and was around from then on. As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: mum taught me good from evil and dad taught me to obey. But the stranger…he was our storyteller. He would keep us spell bound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies. If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed to predict the future! He made me laugh and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking but dad did not seem to mind.
Many years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. His name? We just call him TV. He has a wife now. We call her Computer. Their first child is Cell Phone; second child is iPod. By the way, they now have a wonderful grandchild. She is a genius! She is fondly called Blackberry; BB for short. She is nearly more popular than her mum. Her new baby cousin is iPad. This stranger has decided to take up permanent residence in our house. What can we do?
The internet is neutral can be asked to do anything. So, if there is any problem, it is with those that give it instruction. The information society in which children and young people all over the world are growing up offers an unprecedented level of services and information which can be accessed through the computer, mobile phone, game console, iPod, iPad, personal digital assistants etc. As a neutral tool for disseminating data, the internet can be used for good or for ill. It has enormous potential as a source of education for people of all ages and capacities. It can also be used to set online traps to exploit users for criminal purposes. Among those who are most vulnerable to such traps are children.
The risks and vulnerabilities related to the use of the internet include: exposure to illegal and harmful content such as pornography, gambling, brain washing and recruitment for terrorist activities, cyber bullying and inappropriate content; disclosure of personal information leading to the risk of physical harm, sexual abuse and identity theft; creation, reception and dissemination of illegal and harmful content; and excessive use of the internet to the detriment of social and or outdoor activities important for health, confidence building and social development and general well being. Others are unauthorized use of the parents’ credit cards to pay for online services and merchandise and targeting through spam and advertisements from companies using internet sites to promote age or interest targeted products.
Child abuse materials emanating from other countries are thriving in Nigeria, exploiting children users’ ignorance and vulnerability of the internet infrastructure. As Nigeria comes to terms with issues of child abuse materials and commits to the protection, Nigeria does not have sufficient legislation to combat child pornography and related matters. Internet has become the single largest domain where Nigerian youths are presently being engaged. The reality in today’s Nigeria digital world has transformed individual lifestyle. The Nigerian youth’s daily life, from villages to cities, is full with SMS, e-mail, chats, online dating, multiplayer gaming, virtual worlds and digital multimedia. Although, these technologies mean added convenience and enjoyment for many, government and users alike are often one step behind the fast paced innovation in these areas.
Stakeholders are to work in parallel and in unity at strategic, operational and tactical levels to address child online protection, to conduct a high level strategic planning session across relevant government bodies and to ensure dissemination of clean contents from operators’ networks.
Furthermore, they should conduct awareness workshops across the country in separate areas – local governments, local schools/teachers, private sector and parents and to design a framework, guidelines, policies and other regulations and transit same to appropriate organs of government for assent and implementation.
There should be an all inclusive multi-stakeholder and multi-sector collaboration, partnership and alliances to create more awareness among children on the negative consequences of improper use of cyber content.
Child online protection should be merged with the cyber crime policy of the government while asking that a separate agency should be established to handle the issue of child online protection to ensure that it is not submerged in the larger cyber crime policy.
For operators, they should implement technical mechanisms to prevent access to websites identified as hosting contents that are offensive to children and to implement processes to enable the removal of any child sexual abuse content on their own web services.