Parents urged to learn how to use internet to guide their children - UNICEF

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi
 Ms Hilda Mensah, a Child Protection Specialist with the UNICEF
Ms Hilda Mensah, a Child Protection Specialist with the UNICEF

Parents have been admonished to acquaint themselves with technological tools in order to enable them provide the needed supervisory roles and guidance to their children on internet usage.

A Child Protection Specialist with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ms Hilda Mensah who gave the advise said the use of the internet and internet tools come with a lot of dangers particularly for children.

This, she said was why parents ought to familiarise themselves with the internet and internet tools so that they will be in the position to properly guide their children against all forms of cyber threats.

She said often times, many parents are unable to provide the needed guidance and supervisory roles to their children who use the internet because they themselves lack basic understanding of the internet and internet tools.

Workshop

Speaking at a workshop on “Cyber hygiene best practices for parents and guardians” at the Accra Digital Centre on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, Ms Mensah said parents’ role in guiding their children on the use of the internet and other technological devices was critical to ensuring the safety of their children on the cyber space.

She noted that even though some parents may be literate, there are many who are illiterate when “it comes to the internet and internet tools usage.”

She was of the view that guiding children on the internet will help them to adopt good cyber etiquette, hence becoming responsible users of the internet and internet tools.

Ms Mensah explained that parents are the first gate keepers for their children when it comes to the use of the internet and internet tools, adding that if parents fail to provide the needed guidance and supervisory roles to their children, it will go a long way to expose their children to cyber threats and attacks.

She has, therefore, charged the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to provide some form of minimum training for parents in the country to enable them assist their children on the internet.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

The workshop formed part of activities to mark this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) which was launched on Monday, October 1, 2020 on the theme: “Cybersecurity in the era of COVID-19.”

The month-long event is meant to educate children, the public, businesses and government stakeholders on cyber hygiene best practices, consistent with the Safer Digital Ghana campaign.

The workshop brought together parents and other key stakeholders in the educational sector as well as some experts in the cybersecurity space.

During the workshop, a panel discussion involving experts from the various fields, including educationists, psychologists, counsellors, child protection specialists and social media and cybersecurity experts provided insights on the various aspects of the internet and internet tools usage.

Virtual parenting

For her part, the Acting Director at the Department of Children at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs Florence Ayisi Quartey, said life in the virtual world cannot be separated from the real life.

This, she said is why parents “cannot afford not to parent their children in the virtual world”, pointing out that parents must ensure that their children are safe on the internet.

According to her, parents can only ensure the safety of their children on the internet if they themselves build their capacities and competencies in the use of the internet.

Mrs Quartey said since internet and other technological devices have become part of “our everyday life” it was necessary for parents to ensure that their children followed best cyber hygiene practices on the internet.

She expressed the worry that many children are engaging in many unhealthy activities on the internet because they lacked the necessary coaching from their parents or caregivers.

Study

In a presentation, Mrs Joyce Odame, a Child Protection Specialist with UNICEF, said children are among the most vulnerable group of people to become targets  of cyber-attacks on the internet.

She said a study conducted by the UNICEF revealed that seven in 10 children use the internet for learning, stressing that since the number of children using the internet keeps growing, parents ought to ensure that they (children) did not become victims of cyberattacks.

She said the “time of covering things up is over”, noting that parents ought to pay keen attention to the activities of their children on the internet.

Mrs Odame said although parents may not be familiar with all internet tools and applications, they need to familiarise themselves with such tools and applications to enable them guide their children on the internet.

Assistance

In a welcome address, the National Cyber Security Advisor, Dr Albert Antwi-Boasiako, said parents were key stakeholders when it comes to ensuring the safety of children on the internet.

He said the National Cyber Security Centre was working assiduously to create a safe cyber space for all internet users in the country, particularly children.

He, however, encouraged parents and other internet users to report any cybercrime or activities to the centre for assistance.