A non-profit organisation Child Online Africa (COA) is calling on parents to be wary of threats posed by a surge in online sexual predatory behaviour and cyber bullying in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the organisation, following the spread of COVID-19 predator handbook; an online grooming manual describing ways to manipulate and exploit the increased number of children at home and online during the pandemic, many abusers have found a safe haven, bypassing Government restrictions and parental controls to carry out the condemnable acts.
Due to a shutdown on schools, children have increased internet usage as many of them now have to rely on e-learning platforms to make up for the lost contact periods in school. Child Online Africa says although the decision to leverage on educational technology in the time of the pandemic is apt, Parents and other authorities have left young children to surf the internet with little or no supervision hence exposing the school children to explicit contents and other undesirable materials in the cyberspace.
Speaking to Class News on the occasion of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) 2020, Executive Director of Child Online Africa Awo Aidam Amenyah pointed out that “there has been an increase in the threat that children and young people are faced with in the digital space. It’s not only the sexual one, its actually because grooming is more or less an entry point to sexual exploitation and trafficking. So obviously once they prepare them online it’s easier to get them off”.
In describing the modus operandi of the sexual predators, she said: “what they do is actually to get these young people to produce photos or videos of themselves, naked or in the act and all of that and those are the contents that the predators usually feed on. So, they might not come to get this child from you physically but they getting them online and having them produce those contents” adding that “it is important we work to safeguard children from situations like that.”
Child online Africa is also calling for immediate government interventions to avert threats posed by the perpetrators.
The NGO advised parents to increase parental control and guidance mechanisms to ensure that young children derive optimum benefits from the use of Information Communication Technology.
At the origination level, COA says it is developing a manual to help parents install basic settings that will aid them to ensure that their children use the internet responsibly.