Tighten laws to control internet: Potraz 

Source: Tighten laws to control internet: Potraz -Newsday Zimbabwe

THE government has been urged to tighten laws on age-inappropriate content distributed through the internet amid reports of a surge in the number  of minors accessing sexual content online.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) revealed this week that at least 58% of children at national level are at risk of accessing explicit and harmful content on the internet.

In Zimbabwe, the highest visited online sites include pornography and betting sites, with children being the most viewers and consumers of the adult content.

According to Potraz, the overall adoption rate of social media in the country is 93%.

This was revealed in the Child Online Safety Survey (2024) released by Potraz this week indicating that at least 44% of children admitted to have accessed adult content intentionally or inadvertently.

The regulator said this had impacted parenting or guidance to child behaviour due to heavy consumption of improper and harmful content.


“Advocate for tighter legislation regarding the hosting of age-inappropriate content online, particularly sexual content. Potraz through the cyber incident response team, in collaboration with national and international stakeholders should continuously monitor and restrict the distribution of such content to minors.

“Despite the undeniable benefits of internet access, the survey also identified harms that children were exposed to. The survey revealed that the main threat to Zimbabwean children online was exposure to sexual content, either intentionally or inadvertently.

“A considerable 44% admitted that they had seen sexual content online at least once, whether messages, images, or videos. Exposure to content instigating hate and violence was prevalent,” the report said.


It added: “Exposure to content instigating hate against certain people or groups (such as tribes, races, religion among others), violence, fake news, consumption of drugs and other elicit substances, information about committing suicide was also prevalent.”

The report said 13% of children reported that they had experienced cyber-bullying at least once in their lives.

Speaking at the Potraz, Research Council of Zimbabwe research dissemination workshop in Harare this week, Potraz director-general Gift Machengete reiterated the need for policymakers to adopt recommendations made by the telecommunications regulatory company, in efforts to save children from cyber harm.

“When we do regulations it has been realised that regulators cannot regulate from the dark. Regulators need to have research so that we have evidence-based regulation.

“We need to make interventions based on facts, based on objectives on reality and not based on subjective feelings. These researches will then pinpoint where there is need for policies,” he said.

Meanwhile, other recommendations made by Potraz include enhancing  internet access and digital literacy, integration of digital literacy into teacher training, implementation of child-centric education programmes, promoting local language digital content, promoting parental involvement, utilising parental control tools and empowering parents with digital literacy.