The Era of Digital Parenting

While digital parenting seems like a huge responsibility for many, the truth is that technology and internet are here to stay and while its essential and mandatory for everyone to embrace this innovation, we must ensure that we enunciate the safety aspects.

The internet offers enormous benefits like quick and easy access to information, a  knowledge hub for learning and improvement, easy access to scholarships/bursaries, easy access to educational materials, simplified communication and research, easy access to fun educative activities/games and many others.

Fatima, is a passionate teenager, who was determined to positively impact her generation. Through the internet she became the first ever Nigerian Webrangers ambassador at age 14. Webrangers are online super heroes that educate, encourage and promote the safe and responsible use of the internet among their peers.

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As a young internet user, Fatima was opportuned to positively impact her school and community by creating fun campaigns on online safety which earned her a trip to California USA to meet with other Webrangers from all over the world. Without relenting on her  responsible and safe use of the internet, she further scored for herself two scholarships to study in South Africa. Fatima in her own little way has used the internet as a learning hub and is still revelling from the vast opportunities being thrown at her.

On the other hand, we have Chioma. Chioma is an 11 year old girl who was exposed to a cyber paedophile online. According to the mother, Chioma has been requesting to be on a social media platform which she finally gave in to. Little did she know that she had opened the door to a paedophile right inside her daughter’s bedroom. Although she had given her daughter strict instruction to never accept friends she doesnt know, she paid little attention to supervising her daily online activities.

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Chioma’s favourite online game and social media platform became her worst nightmare. This experience hunted her for years before she was compelled to share her dilemma with her mother, even though the damage already made was irrevocable. At 11 Chioma’s first sexual experience was seeing the penis of a paedophile masturbating through a WEBCAM, she was groomed, sexually brainwashed and molested right inside the comfort of her bedroom.

Here’s the simple but yet highly effective method, the peadophile used to gain Chioma’s trust. He managed to make ‘’friends’’ with other girls at Chioma’s school and by the time he sent Chioma a friend request, he already had 32 mutual friends. Here’s another trick, his profile picture looked like a teenage school girl wearing a school uniform.

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While we see the vast opportunities offered on the internet through Fatima’s story, we can also see that as parents we need to carefully monitor our children’s activities so that they do not fall victims to cyber crime like Chioma.

This story is a wake up call to all parents to take away all privileges attached to allowing any kind of device in their child’s bedrooms overnight and also ensuring their daily online activities is been supervised. So dear parent/s it’s your obligation to concentrate more on your child’s online safety and how they use digital media rather than just for how long they use it.

From my past online safety trainings, I’ve discovered that lack of these trainings in schools can result to young internet users falling victims of cyberbullies, cyber paedophiles/predators, hackers, phishers,  fraudsters, impersonators, sexters; amongst many others.

These young internet users are super excited and inquisitive about the online platform and so this could cause them to be vulnerable to any online attacks. The need for them to be safeguarded and well-equipped with online safety knowledge should be prioritized as this will optimize their chances of fully embracing the benefits the internet offers. The same way we educate them about road safety, should be the same way we educate them about online safety.

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The rising norm these days is demands from some schools requesting that each child owns his/her personal gadgets in other to make digital learning more effective and easier. At school they get supervised and monitored on their activities and internet usage and ofcourse the school management ensures they block access to all inappropriate websites. At home same supervision/monitoring should also be put in place by parent/s. The true fact  is that the probability of a child accessing the right content online is also equal to the probability of accessing inappropriate content online.

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Every child’s first point of contact when faced with fear is their Parent/s, so being self-conscious about your child’s online activity and safety is paramount as this will help you cultivate the habit of fastening your child’s online safety belt. As a parent, it’s your utmost responsibility to ensure that your child is safe while enjoying the internet. Ensure you purchase and install softwares like parental control Apps on your child’s device/s as this softwares tracks your child’s online activities, blocks and filters out inappropriate contents from their device/s.

Always remind your child to wear their safety hat whenever they access the internet. Remember that karma has no specific menu…

…you get served what you order.

 

This article was first published on Medium and written by Chidimma Udeh

Chidimma Udeh is an Online Safety Advocate with the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and is passionate about creating an online safe haven for young internet users.

 

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