The 3 Cs that matter
Project Open Eyes activities revolve around these Cs.
Many of the harm and risks that children face in their use of digital devices and new media are brought on them by themselves and by their peers. For instance, an issue like mobile phone overuse/addiction is not a function of the action of others but of the child who has physical custody of a phone.
While we strive to keep children away from harmful people and content online, we must train children to be responsible netizens who follow common sense principles in using digital media and new media.
The way we train children to live in the world as we have it- teaching them about crossing the road; table manners; how to handle strangers; how to give first aid treatment…common sense ways of living- that is the same way we must train children on how to use digital devices responsibly, and act reasonably, online.
Project Open Eyes believes that digital devices and new media can play a good role in the spiritual, academic, social, and psychological development of children. But that would only happen when children are taught to conduct themselves properly as they employ the use of digital devices and new media.
The lure of the Internet today is connection. Social media companies invite us all to connect online in different ways. And everybody is connecting. Influencers, ranging from the religious leaders to business leaders and leaders of thought, are all avid social media users. People are making new friends online and reconnecting with long lost friends and acquaintances.
However, the deviants and criminally minded are connecting with themselves online too, and they are also connecting with the innocent. Paedophiles, fraudsters, sexual predators, all lurk online. Most of the time, they hide their identity.
Children must be taught that the rule ‘Do not talk to strangers’, applies online too. They must be taught that there are harmful people online, but they do not always appear so because it is very easy to camouflage online.
Children must be taught that while it is good to make new friends and establish contact with mentors offline or online, they must be taught how to be extra-sure that they are not making unhealthy connections. They must also be taught the indicators that point to a threat or harm from another person online.
It will be foolhardy to think that at some point we would have utopian media where there would be no risk of harm to child or adult. But we must yet strive to do all we can to ensure that the media is kept safe for children. We believe that people and technology are key to having a safe media for children. Companies and individuals that put content online must be informed of the need to make the best interest of children the primary consideration in uploading content.
Laws must be enacted by the Nigerian legislature which would make ICT companies act more conscientiously in relation to children. There is a lot we can learn from the United States and the European Union in this regard. Agencies set up by such laws will play a good role in keeping the Internet safe for children.