Mutesi’s 10-year-old son is tech savvy and can effectively operate a smart phone. He can navigate different apps on the internet with ease. In a world where technology is fast becoming a way of life, the mother of two also bought a laptop for his children to use whenever she is away to keep them busy instead of wandering in the neighborhood. But Mutesi was mistaken. Recently she came back home un-expected, and found her children viewing inappropriate movies on internet.
Jacob Kabera, a parent says that Mutesi’s experience is familiar in many homes yet parents never get to know. Musiime notes that the number of young children misusing internet is growing with the increase in technological advancements.
Experts warn that as children return home for holidays, parents should be on the lookout for what their children do when using internet. Below experts give tips on how to ensure that your child uses internet appropriately.
Start discussing online safety at an early age
Kevine Bajeneza , the chief operations officer at Cyberteq Rwanda, says one of the key things to keep children safe online is enforcing boundaries and engaging in age-appropriate open discussions about your child’s online activities to learn the benefits and realise the dangers of the internet.
“The world is moving fast with technology and internet connectivity. Though this comes with a lot of advantages everyone should reckon that everything however good it is has another side of it which may be negative. That’s why children are likely to be more vulnerable to that. They need to learn the fact that the online world parallels the real world and that there are both safe and unsafe things out there,” she says.
Bajeneza adds that it is the responsibility of parents, educators and other key players such as the government, internet providers, and software developers, among others, to make sure children are protected. For example, she says if you let them open an account with any social media platform like Facebook or Instagram, help them create a sensible password and explain why they should use different passwords for each account and the possible consequences of not doing so.
Once you’ve written something you can’t delete it
Nadia Uwamahoro, the managing director of Data Systems which runs the brand Gira ICT in Rwanda, says children have to be taught to be careful about what they say or write when they are online.
“Tell your children that once you’ve written something you can’t delete it completely. If what you do or say is controversial it will be copied many times and will always come back to haunt you, even in later life when you apply for a job or other important opportunities,” she says.
Uwamahoro also says the gadgets one uses such as smart phones, tablets and desk tops need to be protected as well. “But that’s only one part of it; those applications and services you use need to be protected, you don’t want others seeing your information. Use sensible passwords and anti-virus and malware software protection and do scan these machines regularly,” she says.
Teach them to beware of strangers bearing gifts
For Michal Suchocki , a sales executive at Cyberteq Rwanda, adults, especially prominent and high profile persons, have proven once and again vulnerable to cyber-attacks and therefore children cannot be expected to be any better .
He explains that hackers are more like criminals that break into your house through the computer rather than through the window.
“Children have to be taught to beware of strangers bearing gifts much like they should in the physical world as they are an easy prey to these attacks. A hacker may try to enter a prominent person’s privacy by using their child. For instance, they can manipulate the child threatening to reveal sensitive information in if he or she doesn’t pay a ransom,” he says.
Set some limits
Eric Ganza, a technical officer at PopConn, a local internet provider, says for very young children never, under any circumstances, allow them to browse unaccompanied.
“The internet provider may have parental tools and filters designed to keep some of the more indecent online content out of your home. For instance, even if they have their personal laptops and smartphones, with the help of your internet provider those devices can be set to forget the Wi-Fi access code so that they cannot get online without an adult present,” he says.
Learn about something yourself if you don’t know
“Do not rely on anyone else to tell your children what they should be doing. Take time to learn about something yourself if you don’t know. Also when educating children it’s good to use material or images, like web comics to get the point across as that way they’re more likely to listen,” Ganza counsels.
Rwanda Police Spokesperson, ACP Theos Badege says, the youth must be sensitised about the double-edge technology is so that they are aware of security tips.
“The Government is doing its part to ensure a safer cyber space, but the community should do their part individually and collectively avoiding being pushed into hackers’ traps and avoid abusive individual sources or websites,” he says.
On the other hand, Anatole Gahongayire, the acting IT security division manager at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), says child safety concerns them and they have a public awareness plan scheduled for between March to May 2018 (National Cyber Security Week), where online child protection will be discussed.
“We have started preparations for the activities to be carried out in the campaign, engaging stakeholders and developing national guidelines for child online protection which will be adopted by parents and children of various levels. The guidelines will include what children should be aware of and risks of online uncontrolled access. We will advise them on possible harmful online activities, such as harassment, identity theft and online abuse,” he explains.
Margaret Juuko, lecturer, University of Rwanda
Some children have abundant access to social media platforms and use them wrongfully. Guide your child on how to use the internet; advise them to use only information that is useful and suitable to them. Since internet works with data, accessibility to children can be regulated.
Stephen Mugisha , parent
First of all, I don’t think children should be allowed to own any device that connects to the internet. Children should not have phones until they have at least completed secondary school. Because you can’t control them all the time it is better to hold conversation with them to let them know about the dangers they can encounter online.
Bonnette Iradukunda, S6 student at Martyrs Secondary School
Some of us enjoy having as many friends as possible on social media but I think we should think twice before inviting or accepting friendship requests from strangers. I hear some have become victims of hackers due to such carelessness.
Anne Ndayishimiye, student, ULK
My advice to children is that when using the internet; don’t say things which you wouldn’t talk about in conversations with your family. Think about what you do and say as you may hurt someone or be hurt yourself if you behave irresponsibly online. Follow the same rules you would follow in the real world.