What the newly introduced national child online protection policy and strategy offers to Nigerians
By Stephanie Adams-Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic caused an unprecedented rise in screen time with worldwide restrictions and stay-at-home orders restricting people to their homes, including children – 80% of whom UNICEF says are impacted by online content.
The coronavirus pandemic caused an unprecedented rise in screen time
Although being online opens up an array of opportunities for learning, playing and socialising for children, there are concerns that this may have also increased their exposure to risks. This situation thus necessitates the introduction of policies and strategies to protect them.
One of such strategies is the Nigerian Child Online Protection Policy (NCOPP) approved during a meeting presided over by vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, on 25th January 2023.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, disclosed that the policy was solely designed to protect children from unsolicited online content.
Globally, the Child Online Protection policy and strategy (COP) was first enacted in 2008 by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to promote the online safety of children around the world.
In 2020, the first Child Online Protection global guidelines was launched in June 2020 to foster innovative policies, ensure upgrading of skills, promote global dialogue and strengthen global efforts for child online protection.
The implementation of the 2020 COP Guidelines aim to coordinate a global effort in ensuring that the rights of children online are being respected in all parts of the world. The guidelines were released in six UN working languages including English, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and French.
Aside from ensuring an equitable online space for children online, the newly enacted policy will offer the following advantages to Nigerian society.
Advantages of the Newly Adopted Child Online Protection Policy and Strategy
- The COP policy and strategy signifies the beginning of a new era to intentionally join the global community to ensure the protection of Nigerian children from harm online. With the rapid development of information and communications technology (ICT), there has been increased access by children to online resources as well as exposure to the risk therein. As such, the adoption of the policy in Nigeria will promote a more organised and structural process through the committee that was setup to develop a draft for the National Online Protection Policy and Strategy (NOPPS).
The adoption of the policy in Nigeria will promote a more organised and structural process
The committee is mandated to build on existing initiatives on Child Online Protection (COP), provide a coherent strategy to meet global practices, and further develop the existing child protection ecosystem. The Committee will also continue to work with relevant institutions co-chaired by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as identified by FMCDE – Federal Ministry of Justice (FMoJ), Federal Ministry of Women Affairs (FMoW), Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Cybersecurity Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN), Network Against Scam and Cybercrime.
- The strategy also established easily accessible tools to adopt revised and localised guidelines, including a safety activity guide for teachers and a safety workbook for children. The safety workbook for children, also called Agent COP, has been designed for children under nine (9) years old, adopted, and localised into four (4) major indigenous languages: Pidgin, Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa. As part of being progressive, the book guarantees resources to teach children about their rights and safety online with six practical scenarios that children often face online to ensure they are well informed of the dangers and possible means to address them, as well as responses.
The online protection strategy also addresses the way and manner in which children are to be catered for, as well as global best practices in enshrining children’s human rights and preventing harmful content.
To promote the safety of children and professionalism of teachers, there will also be the adoption of safety exercises in classroom settings that will inspire students and teachers to have conversations around online safety and how to handle it.
The best time to have the strategy policy is now
This is no doubt a first step for the country to ensure the safety of child online content consumption in Nigeria. For a long time, children have been exposed to child sexual exploitation and abuse, cyberbullying, cyberstalking and harassment.
Thus, the best time to have the strategy policy is now. As it will ensure that Children’s devices are protected, especially in areas that relate to how and with whom they are communicating online.