Online safety for children during pandemic - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Online safety for children during pandemic

E-LEARNING
The internet is a great place to learn and interact with our loves ones especially at this time when are facing a health crisis. Unfortunately, internet safety is a concern, particularly for children.
There are different platforms that parents are using to engage their children in this time.
According to Evelyn Kasina, a family IT consultant and founder of Eveminet Communications Limited, most parents are using online resources for learning.
“Some parents are using online tutors for classes via Zoom. Others are using the education program provided by the Government. At Eveminet, we are engaging parents, guardians and educators in a number of programs like National Geographic Kids, Khan Academy (which has a children’s app), Oxford Owl among others. Some parents have taken in life skills lessons that spur up independence and resilience in their children. I have begun teaching my own children on the Sustainable Development Goals,” she shares.
RISKS POSED
As much as spending time on the internet may help your children cope with the effects of what is happening, it is also important for parents to be watchful of their actions online.
“There are several risks posed by the internet. Some of the most known risks include screen time addiction, cyber stalking and bullying, online grooming, child exploitation, sexual abuse by online predators, exposure to pornography and online fraud.
There are other risks that parents should be concerned about. These include: hacking, cyber stalking, identity theft and copyright infringements.”
How then can we protect children in this season? According to the cyber security expert, parents should not ban their children from the use of technology. Instead, parents should teach their children how to protect themselves and positively use the resource.
“In this day and age, it is difficult to ban or withdraw children from using technology. Take interest in your children’s online world by collaborating and being part of it. Learn more on online safety and become your child’s role model,” she says, adding that parents should help their children think critically and learn about privacy.
“Discuss online dangers and the consequences that come with them. Share expectations to those within your child’s ecosystem and collaborate with your children on the responsibility of being on the internet,” she advices.
ENCOURAGE OPEN COMMUNICATION
According to the expert, it is crucial that parents talk to their children openly and regularly about their online presence.
“Be empathetic and understanding, and listen to what they share about their online presence. Build on trust so that they don’t have to hide what they are doing, or do it in a secluded space. Our parents unplug program helps to equip parents, guardians and educators with skills on how to tackle this and create conducive environments for children to thrive.”
USE PARENT CONTROLS AND ENCOURAGE HEALTHY HABITS
Evelyn notes that age matters when it comes to the use of devices.
“Parents should balance their children screen time. Parent controls are necessary when your children get on the internet. As the person in charge, balance your child’s right to privacy with monitoring and encourage children to think of real-life repercussions before posting or commenting on something. When it comes to chats, teach them to avoid talking to strangers. Also be intentional with age based platforms.
There is no such thing as ‘child-friendly social media.’ Try to stay on top of social media trends and remain honest and open with your kids,” she advices.
Evelyn Kasina, a family IT consultant and
Evelyn Kasina, a family IT consultant and founder of Eveminet Communications Limited. PHOTO| COURTESY
LIMIT TIME SPENT ONLINE
“Children need physical activities to grow and develop. Children who spend too much time online often regress on their achieved milestones. When used correctly and in moderation, coupled with and not to the detriment of other activities, the use of technology can be beneficial.
Guided by WHO standards, Eveminet has screen time recommendations that we are currently using to guide parents on their children schedule. For example, children below one should have zero screen time. The time limit changes with age. In general, parents should teach their children to know when to engage technology and also balance between learning and entertainment. Depending on what they are using technology for, children must collaborate with their parents or guardians. They must understand responsibility and possible consequences.
USE CHILDREN-ORIENTED SEARCH ENGINES AND BROWSERS
In addition, parents should use children-oriented search engines and browsers with their children.
“Different platforms have safe search or browsing inbuilt in the platforms. YouTube has a restricted mode and also a YouTube Kids version. Facebook blocks underage content and also is launching a Messenger for Kids in Africa soon. Look for safe sites by looking for a padlock (green) or“Https” on the URL of the websites. Teach them how to pre-screen content before they consume and cover the web camera when not in use.”
APPLY FILTERS AND BLOCKING
 According to Evelyn, blocking is never the solution.
“Our children are smart and they know their way around the internet. Remember unlike us, they are digital natives. I recommend having a values’ based discussion with them explaining the opportunities and the dangers that are in the online space.
However, there are some tools that we can use to help with blocking unhealthy websites, monitoring their online activities and also managing their screen time use. These include; Qustodio, Bit Defender, Sohos, Symantec and Net Nanny.”
 “We are raising digital champions. Affirm your child so they do have to look for the affirmation elsewhere and seek help from professionals when necessary,” she concludes.

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