Quite a number of children have been victims of online criminals and this has alarmed the government, causing it to swing into action and launch a child online protection strategy.
According to a research carried out by the Guard Child in collaboration with the University of Hampshire, 70% of our children aged 7 to 18 years have accidentally encountered online pornography, often through a web search while doing homework.
More tear-jerking findings reveal that 90% of children in this age bracket have seen online pornography and as early as 2004, there were at least 3,433 child abuse domains online, a number that rapidly grew to reach 10,656 in 2006
“This worrying situation is no different locally. According to a recent COP survey carried out by the Authority, there was equally great concern among our teenagers regarding their safety online. Surprisingly, our children did indicate that their precarious actions online are driven by the pressure and desire to belong, which is characterized by large online following thus the temptation to be lured into committing various on-line vices,” said CA Director General Francis Wangusi.
Through the Communications Authority, the government will be seeking to protect children as enshrined in Article 29 (D) of our constitution. According to the article, no one should be subjected to torture in any manner, whether physical or psychological.
Let us look at the some of the online vices the COP will seek to address,
- Solicitation of a minor
This involves asking or engaging in a conversation with a minor with the intention to ask for a physical meeting. When they get the child they lure them to commit crimes, engage in sexual acts or to kidnap them and seek ransom. This often happens after they have established an emotional connection with the children.
Cyberbullying occurs when children harass, threaten, insult, tease and blackmail other children on online platforms such as mobile phones, websites, blogs, and chatrooms. Cyberbullying can be an extension of face-to-face bullying or it can be some kind of retaliation by victims of face-to-face bullying. Unlike face-to-face bullying, the online form is carried out anonymously, spreads faster, has more publicity and the content is available 24 hours a day and can invade the victims privacy even in safe places like their homes.
- Identity theft and Online Fraud
Since the internet is highly unregulated, it has become quite easy for people to steal the identity of other users. Identity theft can occur by sending a virus to a users device to retrieve personal information, fake online sales and auction, and phishing e-mails. There are different types of identity thefts and they include,
- a) Criminal identity theft- this is where the criminal assumes another person’s identity with the intent of committing a crime such as threatening national security or committing acts of terrorism. Victims of criminal identity theft have previously been apprehended and arrested wrongfully.
- b) Financial identity theft-assuming someone else’s identity to obtain credit, goods or services. Others run up huge amounts of debts then file for bankruptcy in their victim’s name, thereby ruining their victim’s financial reputation.
- c) Identity cloning-using someone else’s to assume their identity in daily life. With the adopted identity, the criminal writes e-mails, posts on social media, applies for official documents like passports, social security, and bank accounts.
- d) Medical identity theft-using someone else’s identity to obtain medical care of drugs.
When it comes to identity theft, children are tricked into giving important information about the adults in their lives such as parents.
- Child Pornography
Pornography entails images, films and writings sexually activities. Child pornography refers to all of the above things but depicting sexually explicit activities involving a child. It can be carried out in various forms including,
- a) Nudity- images or films of nude or semi-nude children in inappropriate settings.
- b) Erotic posing –making children pose for pictures or films when fully or partially naked and sexualized or provocative poses.
- c) Explicit sexual activity –pictures or films that depict sexual activities involving children.
Pornographic materials are easily accessible on the internet these days because there are more materials and efficient distribution, thereby escalating child pornography. The situation is worsened by the fact you can easily access the materials anonymously and share it with anyone.
Child pornography can have devastating physical, social, and psychological effects on children and this means that all stakeholders should come together and protect our kids against sexual exploitation.
The CA first step towards the launching of the COP was an Awareness Campaign in 2014. The campaign focused on promoting safe surfing and creating awareness on child-online abuse. The launch, therefore, marks the second step of this journey, whose objective is to deliver a National Strategy for COP for Kenya.
The process of making the COP strategy will be guided by experts from the International Telecommunication Union which came up with their strategy in 2008