Burkina Faso urges greater protection of children online

By Issa Sikiti da Silva

Protecting children against all forms of online harm will from this year take centre stage in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

The question was heatedly debated at the 2014 National Internet Week that took place in the capital Ouagadougou in December.

Since discovering the advantages and joy of the internet, children in this part of the Third World, especially school boys and girls, appear to have fallen in love with the Net, logging in anywhere and anyhow.

Psychiatrist Serges Tisseron said though children have become digital citizens in a digital world that has no boundaries, young people should take utmost care when surfing the internet.

The conference speakers urged ICT players, parents and tutors to protect children against the new dangers that they said might harm them at any point.

There is no common legislation in West Africa regarding online surfing by children under 18. 

Children visiting what look like ‘unsavoury’ websites appears to be a common sight in West African internet cafés up from Senegal to Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso and down to Ivory Coast and Benin.

In Burkina Faso, the government – through the digital economy ministry – is stepping up efforts to engage all stakeholders in the ICT sector to ensure that children’s use of the internet is safe and impacts positively on their lives.

But for Augustin Bazié, a high-ranking state official from the social action and national solidarity ministry, the protection will not be effective and efficient if parents did not have some degree of ICT knowledge.

Parents need to be trained in ICTs to enable them to supervise and control their children online, he said, adding that there was also a need to create awareness about the problem.

Another panellist, Inoussa Sanfo, said children were not aware of the dangers they faced when they went online. Therefore Sanfo called on parents and tutors to be vigilant and constantly monitor what their children see online.

Some participants have on the sidelines blamed internet café operators for letting children use the internet uncontrolled and unsupervised.

But one internet café manager, Paul Sawadogo, refuted these accusations, saying that online monitoring of children must begin at home, not outside of their gates.

 

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