JOHN: Mum I think it’s time you got me a tab, I’m 9 years old and my friends in class are making good use of theirs.
MUM: John I will get you a good phone when you’re 18, for now, face your books and master your Piano lessons.
JOHN: Mum my teacher told us that the world is now a global village during our Computer Science Class, she said this is as a result of technology and AI is gradually replacing a lot in our world.
MUM: Yes your teacher is correct but I don’t want your mind polluted as a child having some gadgets. When you turn 18, I will provide you a good tab.
JOHN: Mum aside the computers provided by my school, I find it difficult to continue some vital lessons at home. Soon, we shall be taught coding for kids in my school, how do I participate without access to the internet? Aren’t there safety guides for children trying to make good use of technology and its benefit?
MUM: I will consider this and your request.
JOHN: Thanks Mum!
The more digital skills children gain, the more opportunities they enjoy but these come with risks. Children’s use of the internet therefore needs to be managed without denying their right of access. Technology plays an important role in child’s empowerment as regards education and communication. It also brings benefits cutting across access to information, wider horizon of awareness, opportunities for self-expression and social interaction. In most developed countries, online communication is now part of children’s lives from their early age and developing countries are catching up.
The internet soon will become an inseparable part from the personal and social development of children’s lives, cutting off children from the world to protect them is not the solution. No doubts children are exposed to risks such as cyber bullying, exploitation and abuse by adult users but denying their digital rights is not the solution either rather, identify ways to ensure their online safety. Let’s examine some of these digital rights :
- Right to Freedom of Expression and Information
Every child has the right to freedom of expression and information whether offline or online. It includes seeking, receiving, ideas of all kinds either orally, in writing, print, form of art or through any other media of the child’s choice.(Convention on the Rights of a Child, Art13). The Digital World has brought about new possibilities and opportunities for children to acquire information and make their opinion known to a wide range of people. This comes with risk factors if there are no restrictions and safeguards put in place by parents, teachers, caregivers and the government.
- Right to Privacy and Data Protection
The Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC) has clearly spelt out that no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family or correspondence whether offline or online, unlawful attacks to the child’s honour and reputation. Collection of the data or information of a child and transferring to third parties without consent is a violation of their rights. The child has a right against such violation through legal representation
- Right to Safety.
Art 3(CRC) provides for the safety of a child both online and offline from abuse, violence, exploitation, mistreatment and negligence.
- Right to Education and Digital Literacy.
Every child has equal opportunity and access to education without discrimination. Art 28(CRC). The educational system is expected to provide access to digital opportunities for the child’s benefit and how to cope with the risks from the digital world. Children should be able to access useful content needed for their development, broadening their horizon, they should gain skills to live freely and safely in the digital environment.
- Right to Assembly, Association, Participation and Play.
Children have right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. This has been extended to the digital environment through social networking .
THE WAY OUT (SAFETY GUIDES FOR CHILDREN AND PARENTS).
- Spend time to teach your children about appropriate online behaviour or get someone reliable to teach them in your presence so you also learn. Online behaviours such as:
- Not sharing passwords,
- Never reveal personal information,
- Meeting someone online and visiting them without parental consent,
- Reporting threatening email or messages.
- Downloading apps without parental/guardian consent etc.
- Parents to bookmark children’s favourite sites.
- Inquire from your children’s school, online protection measures for your children in cases where they are mandated to use computers.
- Monitor time spent by children online.
- Watch out when they spend long hours online at night,
- Suddenly turn off the computer when you walk into their rooms
- They suddenly withdraw from discussing online activities and withdrawal enjoying family time.
Cutting children off the digital environment is not the solution,doing so is denying them the numerous benefits that come with technological advancement. Children can now learn digital skills at an early age and be solution providers, contributing to meaningful impact in our society. A Chinese Proverb rightly says “do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time”.
Success Oghosa Osaretin is a Legal Practitioner and can be reached via:
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