Save the Children leads on Children's online Safety awareness

Monday 24 April 2017

 Save the Children Zimbabwe’s Child Protection unit, in partnership with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s Harare Provincial Education office conducted a two day Online Safety project workshop with 17 parents from 10 High Schools in Harare from 11 to 12 April 2017. The workshop participants were trained to be online safety trainers of other parents, in an effort to improve the safety of children whenever they go online.

The workshop covered issues on Child protection in relation to children’s online presence and activities. Parents were given the responsibility to protect and safeguard their children while online, exercising caution so as to avoid violating the child’s right to privacy, use of technology and their right to protect their identity. 

Parents attending the Children's Online Safety training. Sophie Hamandishe/ Save the Children

The objectives of the workshop were to have the same understanding and guidance on delivering training on online safety for children, to raise awareness amongst participants and equip them with knowledge on how to respond to children’s online concerns.

Speaking at the workshop, Caleb Mutandwa from Justice for Children- an organisation of legal practitioners who represent children elaborated the rights of the  child in relation to accessing information on the internet as contained or stipulated  by  the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) guidelines, the new constitution of Zimbabwe and other child related conventions such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child.

‘’As parents we have  the duty to follow all the principles stated in the new constitution of Zimbabwe and other children related conventions to ensure child protection and safe guarding against the online abusers or perpetrators, ’said Mutandwa.

He added that Online Safety project is a very new area that is starting to develop in Zimbabwe and said the project by Save the Children is among the first projects to focus on this issue, a clear sign that Save the Children has children at heart.  “Save the Children is one of the pioneers of online safety awareness campaigns in Zimbabwe.”

Trainees were also made aware of the signs and symptoms of a child who has been a victim of online abuse, which include behaviour change, low performance both in school work and home work, low self-esteem, use of bad language and isolation among others.

 Cyber bullying, cyber fraud, drug abuse, explicit content exposure, spread of Satanism, abusive behaviours among others were listed as threats to children, that are associated with using the internet. Parents suggested that children must be protected against these threats through educating them on how to use social media, making the children understand the possible online threats, having parents befriending them on different social media platforms and building a good relationship with them.   Dumiso Dube, a School Development Committee (SDC) member, from Roosevelt Girls High School urged parents to be active online so that they become aware of possible threats that can befall their children.

 Sophie Hamandishe/ Save the Children

 In his remarks Wilson Chamba, Education Officer from Harare Provincial Education office, said, he hoped that the trained parents will cascade the training to fellow parents in their communities for the benefit of all children.

 Parents who spoke to Save the Children at the end of the workshop indicated that they had fully understood their responsibilities in protecting their children against online abuse. They made confessions that, prior to the workshop; they did not take the issue of children’s online abuse seriously. The 17 trained parents are expected to extend the training to other parents at their respective schools within the year.