The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has issued guidelines that seek to enhance child online safety in the country.
Child online safety has become important than ever before in this Covid-19 era, where internet usage has increased significantly, and e-learning is becoming the order of the day.
Potraz director-general Dr Gift Machengete said children were among some of the most vulnerable internet users, and there was need to ensure that they were protected. “While the internet has brought about convenience owing to rapid digital transformation, it has also brought about a plethora of challenges,” said Dr Machengete in a speech read on his behalf by the authority’s head of consumer affairs and publicity George Manyanya.
“Children are exposed to various vulnerabilities and there has been an increase in the misuse of technology. Several children are accessing various sites even without their parents’ consent. “We are providing these gadgets to children, but they are accessing sites like tinder, house party, Instagram, Facebook and tik-tok even without their parents or guardian’s consent. Some are exploited by others and become victims, leading to cyberbullying, cyberstalking and cybergrooming.” He added: “Owing to the need to protect children online, The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in June 2020 revamped its Child Online Protection Guidelines to incorporate and stay abreast of the ever changing ICTs landscape and launched new guidelines which we are in the process of adopting.
“While we are happy to launch these today, we must be cognisant of the fact that technology is disruptive and evolving, hence we need to sustain these protection mechanisms in line with the International Standards, which means we will continue launching as and when necessary.
“The ITU Child Online Protection (COP) guidelines provide a holistic approach to respond to all potential threats and harms children and young people may encounter online. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect children from these harms. Close monitoring would minimise issues of abuse, neglect, discrimination and exploitation of children.”Dr Machengete said the newly developed COP guidelines were important for all stakeholders to utilise for the benefit of children who were increasingly joining online services.
“Remember, these children are more vulnerable online since they are young and have little experiences,” he said. “It is important to appreciate that some children are especially vulnerable, particularly migrant children or children living with a form of disability.”
It is estimated that at least one third of all Internet users today are children and young people, and UNICEF estimates that 71 percent of young people are already online.