The safety and privacy of children while surfing the internet got a boost in Nigeria this week, when Google announced the launch of a $1 million grant to organizations in Africa that engage in ensuring safety, privacy and trust in the digital space.
There is no doubt that the Internet yields numerous opportunities and benefits for children in terms of its impact on their educational attainment and social inclusion. However, it has also exposed children to dangers that defy age, geographic location and other boundaries that are more clearly delineated in the real world. This has resulted in risks to children and young people of having abusive images of them shared on the Internet; of being groomed or lured into sexual conversations or exploitation by adult offenders; of being bullied or harassed online, noted a 2011 report by the Innocenti Research Centre (IRC), the dedicated research hub of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“Google is committed to a safe internet for children, as well as the empowerment of organizations who share this commitment,” said Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, head of brand & reputation at Google Africa, during an event to mark the 16th annual safer internet day in Abuja this week. The fund that has been set up, according to her, is to support innovative ideas around privacy, trust and the safety of families online across sub-Saharan Africa.
“The fund will be administered by a third-party partner on behalf of Google.org across Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), and details of how to apply, deadlines and criteria will be made available in due course.” Aderemi-Makinde said.
The Be Internet Awesome project was also launched in Africa, described as Google’s landmark child online safety program, which seeks to help minors explore the internet safely and confidently.
“We are excited to strengthen the work we have been doing with parents and children in the field of online safety in Nigeria,” said Aderemi-Makinde. “In addition to Family Link, which allows parents to help their families develop healthy digital habits, we also launched Password Checkup exactly one year ago to empower users to check and strengthen online security settings for their Google Accounts.”
Be Internet Awesome teaches kids important skills for surfing the internet, like how to recognise potential online scams, using the internet securely and safeguarding valuable information, how to identify and refrain from cyber bullying, as well as what to do when encountering questionable content on the internet.
“Beyond our own products, we also want to help kids learn how to be safer, more confident explorers of the online world. Today, we joined with the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to hold SID events in 36 States towards empowering teachers, parents and younger children to better understand and navigate the Web with confidence,” said Seember Nyager, Policy & Government Relations Manager, Google Nigeria.
Google also launched the Digital Parenting Initiative, a program aimed at educating guardians, teachers and families on online tools that bring families together to learn, have fun and be safe online.
Garba Abari, director general, National Orientation Agency (NOA), represented by Mette Edekobi, director, special duties, NOC described the safer internet day as “a great opportunity to promote internet safety across a range of audiences and is an event which we strongly support. We are really glad to be collaborating with Google and our reliable partners, PPDC, to launch these initiatives.”
On her part, Nkemdilim Ilo, CEO, PPDC said the “Safer Internet Day brings schools, parents, teachers and industry together to make sure children have the power, information and resilience they need to make safe and informed choices online,
This year, we are particularly pleased that with the support of Google and the Government we have been able to infuse online safety courses into the Nigerian school curriculum. This will teach children the practical and emotional skills they need as they navigate their way through the digital world.” Ilo added.