Home » Protecting Children Online: The Battle Against Online Child Exploitation

Protecting Children Online: The Battle Against Online Child Exploitation

by Victor Adetimilehin

In a world increasingly shaped by digital learning platforms, the fight to shield children from online exploitation intensifies. Concerns grow as children gain access to digital devices, opening doors to potentially harmful content. Parents and educators share their worries as technology plays an ever-expanding role in education. During a recent public lecture in Accra, a senior lecturer at a university underscored the alarming consequences of unrestricted access to online platforms for children. Many parents’ express skepticism about allowing their children to navigate the digital landscape, apprehensive about the exposure to inappropriate content.

Dr. Adu-Manu, a concerned parent, recounted his own experience during the lecture. He was shocked to discover that his 10-year-old had enabled the YouTube application he had hidden on his tablet. Within hours of using the tablet, explicit content advertisements began appearing. “I had disabled YouTube and installed YouTube for kids, thinking he would use the safer option,” Dr. Adu-Manu lamented. “But one day, I took his tablet and realized there were adult sites. I asked him who visited those sites, and he said they popped up automatically.” This incident resonated with parents in the audience, many of whom had encountered similar challenges.

Online learning has gained prominence, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The government of Ghana, with support from international organizations, developed a Learning Management System to facilitate remote education, reaching millions of students. Digital platforms offer an avenue for children to expand their knowledge beyond traditional textbooks.

However, studies reveal that online engagement comes with risks, particularly concerning child exploitation. Technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) pose a significant threat. Ghana, along with Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, has seen a surge in OCSEA rates in the subregion, according to a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC).

A report by UNICEF and the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) highlighted a troubling increase in child sexual abuse material accessed, shared, or produced from Ghana. Such trends deeply concern parents and advocates. In an effort to improve digital learning, Ghana is set to launch the Ghana Virtual High School, offering blended learning opportunities and expanding access to education. However, with increased screen time and online interactions, the risk of child exploitation remains. Cybersecurity authorities are drafting legislation to address online child sexual exploitation and abuse. The proposed measures include age verification technologies, the use of artificial intelligence to detect harmful content, and victim protection and support services.

Despite the challenges, Ghana is taking steps to protect children online. Awareness campaigns and e-literacy programs are essential components of this effort. Parents are encouraged to set child-friendly device settings and monitor their children’s online activities closely. While the battle against online child exploitation is ongoing, Ghana’s commitment to safeguarding its children offers hope for a safer digital future.

Source: [Daily Graphic]

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