Prohibit children from early social media use — Afenyo-Markin
The Deputy Majority Leader in Parliament, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, has urged the House to draft and pass a new law, through the efforts of private members to prohibit children under 16 from consuming and using social media.
“In that law, offending parents or guardians, through whose negligence and or acquiescence children consume or use harmful social media content or become owners of social media accounts must face punitive fines," he said.
Presenting a statement in Parliament on the need for Ghana to scale up efforts to clamp down on early social media use by children, Mr Afenyo-Markin urged Parliament, parents and other stakeholders to scale up efforts and measures to protect children, particularly those under 16 years, from early social media use and consumption.
He also called on Parliament to direct the ministries of the Interior, Communications and Digitalisation and Gender, Children and Social Protection to expedite work on developing a comprehensive online child protection policy for adoption and implementation within the immediate future.
"Parliament must lead an ammendment to the Cyber Security Act 2020 to impose an obligation on the Cyber Security Authority to submit separate bi-annual reports to the House for consideration and subsequent action on detailed measures it had taken to specifically safeguard children from the harmful effects of social media use and consumption," he said.
Mr Afenyo-Markin, who is also the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for the Effutu Constituency in the Central Region, who made the statement on the floor of the House last Friday, also painted a disturbing picture of how the " dangerous, hazardous use and consumption" of social media was putting the present and future of Ghanaian children in grave peril.
"As a nation, we cannot throw our hands in the air. We must confront the problem by taking proactive steps, including formulating appropriate policies and creating responsive legal frameworks to tame or defeat such evil minds,” he said.
Mr Afenyo-Markin, who gave statistics to buttress his point, said it had been estimated that over 4.5 billion people around the globe used social media as of October 2021.
In his view, social media sites could serve as valuable platforms for both adults and children to acquire crucial knowledge, learn new and vital skills, consume valuable news content, and even earn a living through lawful social media marketing and content creation.
However, he said the unfortunate reality was that, the Internet was not always helpful.
“Indeed, social media sites on the Internet have become very dangerous and destructive tools and platforms used by perverts belonging to the evil fringes of society to target, victimise, radicalise, and destroy the present and future of innocent or curious or unsuspecting children,” he said.
He cited a study that identified some of the main negative implications of the use of social media by schoolchildren as distraction of pupils' attention from their studies, frequent use of Pidgin English as well as unnecessary fashion consciousness.
The leader also quoted a UNICEF report released in 2021 that revealed that globally, one in five girls and one in 13 boys suffered sexual abuse or exploitation through electronic media before their 18th birthday.