One in every five children in Kenya (8-18) years has been exposed to the risk of Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE). The Internet offers child development but it also provides an anonymous platform for OCSE. Why is it that we have an increase in OCSE in Kenya?
While attending a meeting organized by African Institute for children studies they shared findings of a study they conducted in four different counties in Kenya; Mombasa, Nairobi, Nakuru and Kisumu on escalating issues on OCSE and most of it was due to lack of awareness from parents and children on OCSE.
According to findings from a survey on OCSE at least 25% (CAK 2015 ) of teenagers are unsupervised while using the internet, 42% are young adults, 12-17 years access internet twice a week (UNICEF) 2013. These findings indicate that children are vulnerable to OCSE yet child protection systems are not prepared to prevent or respond to it.
There’s a need for everyone to take charge and stand up to their roles in the society to ensure that children are having a safe environment for their growth especially while using the internet. We need to be team players in these issues on how we can protect and shield our children from the vast growing technology.
How often do you give children around your gadgets to play with? Do you follow up on what they do with them? Do you check which sites they visit? For most of us we just leave them up to it and that’s where we’re failing. We need to try and keep track of what they are up to even though it might be a bit difficult to keep up with the ever evolving and advancing technology they are into.
The finding indicates that mobile phones are the most and easily accessible gadgets standing at 51.9% that are convenient to children as we (parents) tend to buy or give them perhaps for security purposes or for them to stop pestering us while we’re busy making plans or working.
At least 65% of the children in Kenya have access to the internet and it increases with age at 74.5%. The following counties recorded 74.2% which was highest from Nakuru and Mombasa, Nairobi at 59.4% and 56% from Kisumu. Sites that were frequently used Facebook at 76.8%, WhatsApp 52.5%, YouTube 40.4%, Instagram 26.8%, and Twitter at 11.5%.Frequency of the visits to the sites stood at 49.1% daily, 45.2% weekly and 57% monthly.
Some of the contributing factors that push into OCSE is that there’s lack of awareness to parents, caregivers and children on what OCSE is and how it can be prevented and how children can be protected from it. Parental guidance is crucial to each and every child as well as proper implementation and policies execution, massive capacity building to protect children from OCSE.
It is disturbing on what these children dig into, share and receive from the internet. 35% of the children share naked pictures online, 55.9% of the children are at risk of online sexual prostitution, 20.7% of the study discuss with parents on the risk, 56% expressed the need to know the risk, 3.5% had sought the help of service providers.
These findings give us an overview of what is happening with our children and what they are indulging themselves into. It calls for every partner, stakeholders, government, CSO’s , parents, caregivers and teachers to take the upper hand in understanding how we can make the internet safe for our children and how we can protect and shield them from it before it is too late and finally how we can already assist victims of OCSE and prosecute perpetrators of OCSE.