Children & Internet Use : Urgent Protection!

Child upbringing has never been an easy task given the environments in which kids grow up likewise peer pressure. The challenge even becomes taller in a digital age with the advent of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) which have brought the good, the bad and the ugly.  In fact, certain things are no longer taught to children and very few will as well be hidden from them given the global environment, coupled with the sophisticated nature of some of the ICTs gadgets that facilitate connectivity between various societies and peoples.
While digital games, for instance, have great potential for helping children to develop learning and thinking skills, they also contain harmful content, and their overuse could cause some problems like addiction and meeting malicious people. Experts even hold that the more time children spend online, the more they are exposed to digital risks, such as cyberbullying, sexting and harmful user-generated content. Considering the fact that learning is easier with what or whom one has frequent contact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say technology use can cause social and behavioural problems in children based on what they see, their individual inclinations and more so their associates. 
It is common knowledge that Cameroon, like any other developing country, is engaged in the digital transition. This allows everyone; youth and adults, to be connected. For many children today, the internet, mobile phones and other technologies are a constant and familiar presence. But while the internet brings many opportunities and benefits to children in terms of impact on their educational attainment and social inclusion, it can also open the door to the worst. Children can be exposed to age-inappropriate content or inappropriate contact, including from potential abusers. They can damage their own reputation by posting sensitive personal information either online or via 'texting', often unaware of the consequences of their actions on themselves and others, as well as on their long-term digital footprint. They also face many risks, including lack of privacy, various online scams and crimes against children (online grooming for sexual purposes, sexual exploitation and abuse, et al). Like Cameroon’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications said, the trend is all the more serious as the threats are multiplying and their perpetrators are increasingly crossing borders, making it difficult to trace them and their punishment made all the more complex. 
The dark side of digital evolution is so worrisome that each household and or country urgently needs to devise protective measures to save the lives and future of the youngsters on whom tomorrow’s society relies. Drafting and getting endorsed a legal instrument on protecting children online, like the government of Cameroon is doing at moment is, to say the least, a good step in the right direction. As stakeholders insist, the document upon endorsement will define the regulatory framework applicable to all actors for the protection of children on the web and the main rules applicable to all activities involving children in the virtual world with the overall target being to create a safe and age-appropriate digital setting. Indeed the brainwork on course should not take too long to materialise into law whose application should also be unselective. For; technology keeps evolving but inasmuch as it’s unstoppable, the wellbeing of children exposed to it is important. Protecting them should be non-negotiable! 
Working with the support of the global giant of new technologies, like the Meta Group through its subsidiary in Africa, raises hopes that something serious is in the offing. More so as stakeholders say target is to strengthen public policies on the internet, so that children and young people are protected against a range of content, threats and potential harm online. 
Involving relevant government agencies, international organisations, industry regulators, electronic communication operators and members of civil society makes the fight against irresponsible internet use or better still protecting children online a holistic and noble battle. 
Obviously so as the future of the next generation rests squarely on today’s parenting and mentoring. Once the youngsters are not safeguarded against certain societal bad practices, they might grow up thinkin...



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