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The #ChildSafetyOnlineUG Advocacy Campaign was organized by Encrypt Uganda, a non-profit organization that was founded to provide protective measures to the ever-increasing Cybersecurity threats through Cyber rights protection, with support from DHRLab.
We are in unprecedented times. With all learning institutions locked, and a substantial percentage of parents’ movements either restricted or confined at their homes due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, internet, and online services are now more used perhaps than ever before in Uganda’s history.
Being online is providing salvation almost for everyone in society from young to the old, learners and workers, and those seeking to flee boredom. This is therefore a good time to remind ourselves of a few key points about the safety of our children online who are currently relying on the internet to learn from home because they are this nation’s future.
It’s on this background, that Encrypt Uganda ran a 15-day #ChildSafetyOnlineUG campaign from 28th August to 11th September 2020.
Indeed, as children enhance their ICT knowledge, they are prone to abuses, watching, or reading uncensored materials. Some of these risks sexting or sharing of self-generated sexualized content, which exposes children to risks of extortion, harassment, and humiliation.
Parents were, therefore, cautioned to avoid posting their children’s pictures online anyhow because of “digital kidnapping”, a crime through which individuals or companies steal children’s photos and use them in advertising their products.
There is a growing crime called 'digital kidnapping' in which individuals or companies steal children's images and use them in adverts. Parents should avoid posting their children's pictures anyhow.— m.u.h.a.i.r.w.e🇺🇬 (@cole_muhairwe) August 28, 2020
Advocate for children's rights by joining #ChildSafetyOnlineUG@encryptUg pic.twitter.com/zKYfWA6Ehg
A twitter user said that whereas it's children’s right to access the internet, parents should supervise their activities online and set some parental controls.
What Kind of information do children access on internet? While it's their right to access internet, parents should supervise their activities online and set some control such as parental guidance controls #ChildSafetyOnlineUG pic.twitter.com/EmR9UBNgOT— MafiaKing💪🏿🌍🇺🇬 (@Iamturyamusiima) August 28, 2020
He was flanked by another Twitter user who said digital solutions provide significant opportunities for sustaining and promoting children’s rights but these same tools increase children’s exposure to Cyber threats.
Magambo Emmanuel, a digital security trainer at Encrypt Uganda, tipped parents to always be aware of what children are doing on computers including which websites they are visiting. If they are using email, instant messaging, Magambo advised parents to get a sense of who they are corresponding with and whether they actually know them.
#ChildSafetyOnlineUG @encryptUg campaign— MAGAMBO EMMANUEL (@MagamboEmma) August 29, 2020
TIP 1: Be aware of what your child is doing on the computer, including which websites they are visiting. If they are using email, instant messaging, try to get a sense of who they are corresponding with and whether they actually know them. pic.twitter.com/dA1BpeityJ
He added that parents should set rules and warn children about online threats making sure that the children know the boundaries of what they are allowed to do on the computer, phone, or any other devices.
TIP 2: Set rules and warn about dangers - As a parent/guardian make sure ur child knows the boundaries of what they are allowed to do on the computer/phone. Rules may include how long they are allowed to be on the PC or what sites they are allowed to visit #ChildSafetyOnlineUG pic.twitter.com/6p1xZHgZVJ— MAGAMBO EMMANUEL (@MagamboEmma) August 31, 2020
The campaign also attracted other personalities including Michael Kasedde, a Cyber security analyst at NITA Uganda who spoke extensively about the portal government put up to give parents tips on how to protect their children while on different online platforms.
Jocelyn Nakibuule, a journalist and parent shared her experience with her son’s presence on the internet, confessing the difficulties she encounters in knowing what exactly her 10-year-old son does daily online. “He [my son] no longer asks those questions he used to ask me before he knew how to use the internet,” she explained “so, I try to check the phone and know what he has been watching online and the conversation starts from there.”
Andrew Kyamagero, a renowned TV personality also shared his views on internet access for his young boy at home.
Encrypt Uganda also shared phone safety tips for teenagers.
The campaign was concluded on 11th September, with a WhatsApp discussion on “Children’s Safety Online: From a Legal and Cybersecurity Lens” where panelists dived deep into steps parents/guardians can take to ensure their children’s safety online.
During the 1-hour discussion, Andrew Wandera, one of the panelists discussed with participants some of the “Cyber laws” in Uganda like the Computer Misuse Act 2011, Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 and Anti Pornography Act, 2014, that among others, have sections that seek to protect children’s rights online. He further emphasized that section 23 of the Computer Misuse Act criminalizes production, offering or making available, distribution, possessing and procurement of child pornography.
He added that “the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 also requires data collectors to obtain the consent of parents or guardians before collecting data relating to children’s failure of which attracts a penalty.”
He stressed that children have rights to privacy only that the law empowers the parents/guardians to consent on behalf of the children which sometimes leads parents to negate their role of explaining to children the implications of sharing the data in a manner that exposes it to abuse.
Bryan, another panelist shined the light on the cyber threats that children are likely to face online among which included the following below;
On explaining each of the above threats, Bryan went ahead to urge parents/guardians to always befriend their children to mitigate scenarios of keeping online activities hidden by children from parents for fear of negative retaliation. By doing this, it makes children confide in their parents on which apps and online materials they access.
He rallied parents and guardians to start educating their children about the good in the “Cyber world” but also inform them that it comes with “dangers,” emphasizing, parents have got all the reasons to “monitor their child’s online activities to prevent them from danger.”
Having access to a number of support help-lines like the Police Cybercrimes Unit or National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) or Uganda Child Helpline on 116 toll-free.