Member of Parliament for the Effutu Constituency, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, has called for a comprehensive Online Child Protection policy to regulate the use of social media among children.
According to him, there is the need for parliament to ensure the protection of children when it comes to the use of social media. He revealed that in that law, offending parents or guardians through whose negligence and or acquiescence children consume or use harmful social media content or become owners of social dedia accounts must face punitive fines.
Mr Afenyo Markin explained that liability for the offence will be strict, and it is enough that a person under 16 is seen consuming social media or using or opening a prohibited social media account.
“This House must draft and pass a new law, through the efforts of private members, prohibiting Ghanaian children under 16 from irresponsibly consuming and or using social media.”Alexander Afenyo-Markin
Making a crucial statement on Social Media consumption among children, he indicated that the alarming social and technological cankers has induced, threatening the immediate and future safety of children and, possibly, future generations.
Justifying his stance, he stated that it is estimated that over 4.5 billion people around the globe use social media as of October 2021. Other estimates published by business.com, he noted, suggest that Social Media use has increased sharply since the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Let me hasten to concede that it is indeed the case that Social Media sites can serve as valuable platforms for both adults and children to acquire crucial knowledge, learn new and vital skills, consume valuable news content, and even earn a living through lawful Social Media marketing and content creation.”Alexander Afenyo-Markin
Furthermore, Mr Afenyo-Marki indicated that the unfortunate reality is that the internet is not always helpful and social media sites on the internet have become very dangerous and destructive tools and platforms used by perverts belonging to the evil fringes of society to target, victimize, radicalize, and destroy the present and future of innocent or curious or unsuspecting children.
Expressing the need for parliament to take action, he also revealed that Parliament must firmly direct the Ministries of Interior, Communications and Digitalisation and Gender, Children and Social Protection to expedite work on developing a comprehensive Online Child Protection Policy for adoption and implementation within the immediate future.
Additionally, he expressed the need for parliament to lead an amendment to the Cyber Security Act 2020 to impose an obligation on the Cyber Security Authority to submit separate bi-annual reports to the House for consideration and subsequent action on detailed measures it has taken to specifically safeguard Ghanaian children from the harmful effects of Social Media use and consumption.
Role of parents in protecting children on online space
On the part of parents, Mr Afenyo-Markin highlighted that there are self-help measures that parents can adopt to protect children. He emphasized that regular and truthful discussions with children about how predators may attempt to befriend them online serving as a haven for children to report or discuss the importance of immediately reporting abusive or uncomfortable conversations they have online will be crucial.
“Critically examine our children’s online profiles as frequently as possible to know precisely the content they generate and or post, the people they follow, and the online friends who either comment on their posts or send messages. Conduct regular inventory on social networks and apps to guarantee that their respective privacy settings are locked on the most restrictive levels. Have conversations with our children about the dangers of sharing inappropriate or intimate videos or photos with anyone online and Monitor the digital activities or footprints or trails of our children online.”Alexander Afenyo-Markin
Subsequently, Mr Afenyo-Markin entreated parliament to adequately respond to the dangers he has highlighted by referring the statement to a joint Committee made of the Committees on Gender, Children, and Social Protection, and Communication and Digitalisation for consideration and a report that will guide subsequent legislation and policy response.