Protecting children from cyber pests

Published on 23/11/2008

James Ratemo

Drastic changes on how Kenyans use and access the Internet is expected with the arrival of the East African Marine System but children would be in great danger unless precautionary measures are taken.

Experts have warned that cyber criminals and paedophiles are on the loose aiming to hurt children online.

With the fibre optic for Kenya, Internet access would expand into homes and schools meaning more children would have Internet access, thus exposed to online ‘vultures’.

According to United Nations, a decade ago, there were just 182 million people using the Internet globally – and almost all of them lived in the developed world.

By the end of 2008, however, there will be over 1.5 billion Internet users worldwide, and more than 400 million of them will have broadband access – vastly increasing the dangers online, especially for children.

With over 600 million users in Asia, 130 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 50 million in Africa, the Internet is a growing common resource, said Mr Sami Al-Basheer, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT).

“We must ensure that children everywhere can enjoy the benefits of ICTs while being protected from the risks posed by inappropriate use.”

According to the Kenya ICT Board, the Government, through the Board, has targeted to grow Internet usage from the current three million users to 12 million users once the optic fibre is operational.

Great danger

This portends great danger for the many children who would enjoy Internet access.

According to recent surveys, over 60 per cent of children and teenagers talk in chat rooms on a daily basis. Three in four children online are willing to share personal information in exchange for goods and services.

Net security

The enormity of this danger has led ITU to launch an initiative dubbed Child Online Protection (COP) in Geneva on Thursday last week to safeguard children, the most vulnerable users of the Internet.

Addressing the ITU’s high-level meeting on cyber security by video message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “We have to protect against cyber threats, especially when they target children. I welcome the ITU’s COP initiative and urge all States to support it.”

“Cyber security is one of the most important challenges of our time.

The rapid growth of ICT networks has enabled opportunists to exploit online vulnerabilities and attack countries’ critical infrastructure.

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