New laws needed to keep East African kids safe on the Internet

June 9, 2014

More monitoring and supervision is needed from both the law enforcement agencies and parents to protect children from objectionable online content and cybercrimes, as a growing number of Ugandans gains access to the Internet. According to study conducted early this year, empowerment and child protection researchers said that the government and the community needed to work “hand in hand” on the issue. All members of society have a responsibility to protect children from pornography and other online child sex crimes. Children need to have a chaperone who can identify online criminal activity. Some of the things that parents and guardians needed to watch out for included photos and videos of child pornography, as well as advertisements for sex tourism. Study also acknowledged that the Child protection Laws that exists have no provisions on tackling or preventing online crimes against minors. There is need for stakeholders to press for enactments of laws meant to protect children, but it doesn’t address crimes against children through online media.

Online crimes are part of global technological developments that require a collective responsibility. East Africa’s Internet penetration rate is more than 15 percent, expected to jump to 25 percent this year. It is expected to increase significantly next year and over the next several years. Websites that track social media say Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania has nearly 3 million people signed up for Facebook, making it one of the Africa’s top region users of the social networking site. There is need to have new laws and regulations specifically addressing online crimes targeted at or involving children. Call by parents to monitor their children’s Internet use more closely should also be taken seriously. Non-governmental groups in East Africa working hard to tackle the problem, have long complained of being powerless to fight online child crimes without strong laws and commitment from the government and communities. They cannot act if the laws are weak, the government’s commitment is weak, and supervision by parents and community leaders is weak. Information technology can be a very beneficial thing, but if no one is keeping an eye out then it can be dangerous for children.

Contador Harrison