Becoming street wise online

Safer internet usage for the youth

23 February 2021 | Technology

Mariselle Stofberg

During a discussion on safer internet use at the communication centre in Windhoek last week, issues related to access, responsibility and accountability were discussed.

Jochen Traut, the chief of operations at CRAN, emphasised the importance of awareness and education regarding the internet and internet usage.

“I think it is a matter of education and awareness of the dangers of having internet access. It has such a huge advantage and it is a wonderful thing, but it requires a lot responsibility and that is not only on the youth, but also the parents,” he adds.

Traut believes that technology creates access to information and empowers society, but the involvement of parents should be continuously emphasised.

“Parents need to know what their children are busy with. Socialisation is happening mostly through the internet now, and this creates a whole new dimension parents need to take into account. Many of the apps available will use your location as well, so you need to read what comes on to your screen and become street wise online,” he adds.

Willem Steenkamp, a parent who participated in the discussion, believes that the rise of technology has the potential of exposing children to adult content on the internet.

“Children move through stages and it is important for them to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to protect themselves online. Being online also means children are being exposed to predators on the internet. People pose as children and lure the youth into conversations of meetings that might lead to child trafficking,” Steenkamp says.

Bullying and trafficking

Eliakim Helao, a learner at Hage Geingob Secondary School, has first-hand experience of the dangers of the internet.

“I have been a victim of bullying on various social media platforms. The use of internet makes it easier to exchange negative comments and language and the presence of inappropriate content places learners in dangerous of trafficking and even pornography.”

Helao believes that being safe online means young people need to actively protect themselves, others and their personal information. “We need to be proactive online and ensure we are aware and equipped to handle dangers online.”

Another learner of Hage Geingob, Flavia Shanghala, believes that the youth need to appreciate the efforts their parents are taking o protect them online, which many see as an invasion of their privacy. “We need to respect the measures our parents have in place to protect us. All they want is for us to be safe and protected. We should not challenge their measures because we feel they are policing us, because everything they do, they do to keep us protected and safe.”

Shanghala says that safe internet to her means feeling safe and secure when making use of the internet. “It means I can do my research and homework online without the fear of malware or bullying.”

Facilitating open discussions

Steenkamp believes that the most important factor in safer internet use is open discussions with children and effective communication with them about what they can expect online. “You and your children need to constantly be engaged in conversation about ways in which they can protect themselves. As a parent you should also familiarise yourself with precautions you can take to protect your children. Children are curious, and with open internet access that curiosity might create problems. As a parent you need to make sure you have measures in place to keep them safe.”

Steenkamp adds that parents need to be informed about the parental control devices that are available and should also have a good relationship with their child so they feel open to speak about their online experience.

“We need to establish relationships built on trust between parents and children. Parents should be fully aware of what their children are doing online. Children and the youth are so technologically advanced and you need to do the research so you can empower yourself with knowledge to keep them safe,” Traut adds.