By Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. October 4, 2012: The vulnerabilities of children online in this era of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) preoccupied experts at a stakeholders’ forum in Lagos today.
More so, because children know more about ICT than their parents and even some of their teachers. And whereas parents reserve the right to determine what their children learn or otherwise, the children have moved, in the words of an expert, from just-in-case learning to just-in-time learning.
The first Stakeholders Tech4D Forum organised by Women in Technology in Nigeria (WITIN) brought the experts together to rub minds on the beneficial use of the Internet as contrasted with its drawbacks under the theme, “ICT and Child Development.”
Their conclusion was that the combined efforts of stakeholders in the ICT industry are very essential in addressing the challenges of children’s vulnerability online.
Speaking at the forum, Eugene Juwah, Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), dilated on the double-edged sword the Internet is: he said that Internet has raised the issue of children’s vulnerability and it is very important that all stakeholders mount a concerted effort to ensure that the cyber world is a safe place for children to learn.
Juwah, represented by Henry Ikemadu, Head, Policy Economic Analysis, NCC, stated that the Internet is a wonderful resource for providing information on education, research and entertainment. Contrarily, it has also exposed children and young people to bullying, extremism, gambling, pornography and violent games, among other vices.
Four years ago, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) launched the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, an international collaborative effort led by ITU within the framework of the union’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda.
The COP initiative was endorsed by UN Secretary-General, heads of states, ministers and heads of international organisations around the world. It aims at promoting global awareness about the importance of child safety in the online world, developing practical tools to assist governments, industry and educators and sharing experiences to ensure a safe and secure online experience for children.
As such, Juwah said Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), NCC and the industries they regulate seek to work together in this direction in the overall best interest of the Nigerian child.
Indeed, in partnership with the private sector, he said NCC would develop the technical capacity on national Internet content control mechanisms as the nation’s overall Internet content governance response and preventive strategy against the escalation of child abuse and exploitation, materials’ distribution and regulation of content injurious to national security.
Moreover, he added, there shall be capacity building in collaboration with Nigeria Union of Teachers in public and private schools, so that the commission would come up with a massive initiative on child protection online.
Chris Uwaje, President, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), said that “the Internet is a golden opportunity for global competitiveness. So, all nations must take the global ICT revolution seriously.” But he advised in the topic, “Future and Survivability of Nigerian Children,” that parents need to read more to catch up in gap because when talking about Internet, children know more than the parents.
Corroborating this, Veronica Adeyemo, Acting Director (IT Department), Federal Ministry of Information, said ICT today is sine qua non and fundamental to development, including child development. Consequently, the desire of parents, governments, education planners and developers is to introduce children to it early in their development stage in life is understandable.
“We all know that parents naturally reserve the responsibility for the initial development and up-bringing of their children. It is, therefore, imperative that parents have good understanding of ICT and its importance or correlation to early child development,” Adeyemo said.
According to her, ICT is a potentially powerful tool for enhancing educational opportunities to previously underserved constituencies, scattered and rural populations and groups traditionally excluded from education due to cultural or social reasons. “ICT generally motivates children to learn. Therefore, achieving positive impact on learning and development using ICT depends to a large extent on how it is deployed and used,” she adds.
To guard against children’s vulnerability, she advised that parents should watch attentively and discreetly how their children spend their time online, what they do, who they meet and what is currently their main interest.
In his speech, Ernest Ndukwe, former EVC of NCC and current Chairman of Open Media was emphatic that ICT is very essential to children and that the future of media and technology lies in better integration of digital experiences with the real world.
Ndukwe noted that “the combination of technology and computer have been known to deliver results in the way we live today.” Moreover, ICT remains imperative in planning and development of the nation’s economy and that growth has been recorded in ICT applications while others still require urgent attention.
Gerald Ilukwe, CEO, Galaxy Backbone, represented by Amara Nwankpa, Head, Marketing, Galaxy Backbone, said in the Internet age, the teacher is no longer the expert because there are multiple channels of learning today. “We have moved from just-in-case learning to just-in-time learning,” Ilukwe adds. “ICT has the potential to transform the capacity of a new generation through education.”
He listed some of the ICT services for education to include e-learning, mobile learning, Interactive Distance Learning and e-collaboration.