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Stakeholders draft online child protection laws

The Department of Children’s Services in conjunction with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) are working on draft guidelines on protection of children against online bullying and other related crimes.

Principal Secretary (PS) in the State Department for Social Protection & Senior Citizens Affairs in the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection Mr. Joseph Motari lauded the move, saying the development of these industry guidelines on online child protection is timely and will go a long way in ensuring the safety of the Kenyan children online.

Motari said Child protection cases are dynamic in nature and keep changing with innovations, influence of culture from other continents across the world, hence the need for various guidelines and regulations to guide and protect children when they are online.

The remarks were contained in a speech read on his behalf by the Director of Children’s Services Ms. Josephine Oguye during the official opening of a three – day Public Consultation Forum on the draft Industry Guidelines for Child Online Protection and Safety in Naivasha on Monday.

During the deliberations, children representing the 47 Counties across the country will have an opportunity to add their voice to this conversation on online safety and later elect their officials to the National Children`s Council (NCC).

“The importance of the digital environment to children’s lives and rights has been emphasized by the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child in General Comment No. 25 adopted in 2021 and the Committee General Comment stresses the fact that spending time online inevitably brings unacceptable risks and threats such as child sexual abuse material (CSAM).” Motari said.

The PS revealed that according to the findings of Disrupting Harm Survey Kenya, 67 per cent of children between the ages of 12 to 17 in Kenya are internet users and this figure rises from 55 per cent among children aged between 12 to 13 and 62 per cent among those aged between 16 to 17 years.

“In rural areas, 64 per cent of children are internet users as compared to 80 per cent in urban areas, hence exposing them to vices such as; online grooming, sexting, cyberbullying and exposure to age inappropriate content,” He observed adding that Globally, this situation was worsened during the height of covid-19 pandemic when children were exposed following online teaching.

The PS said children are further exposed to emergencies such as drought, floods and man-made calamities which further exposes children to unique child protection issues.

“To address these emerging issues adequately, multi-agency strategies are required to mitigate, prevent and respond so as to ensure children continue to grow holistically in the best interest of the Child,” He added.

Motari lauded the CAK for helping to come up with the draft industry guidelines and urged the children`s representatives present to freely share their online experiences and challenges to enrich these guidelines after being sensitized on them.

The CAK Director General Mr. Ezra Chiloba in his remarks read by CAK Assistant Director in Charge of Cyber Security and E – Commerce Mr. Vincent Ngundi  said as consumers of ICT services, children may be unable to discern the suitability of content they come across from time to time, as the curiosity that comes with the discovery of new and exciting things may drive them to areas that may be harmful to not only their health but also their normal  psychological growth, hence need to protect them.

By Mabel Keya – Shikuku

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