Keep children safe beyond content during holidays
School-going children will be home for close to two months - probably the longest holiday ever in the academic calendar since the onset of Covid-19!
The greatest worry for parents/guardians and caregivers is the likelihood of these children being exposed to inappropriate content, mainly due to the fact that the long holiday coincides with the December and New Year festivities.
As a matter of fact, in a rapidly advancing tech-savvy society, children have access to all manner of film and media content as well as gaming activities that are easily accessible at the click of a button. While the media and technology have their positive aspects, they also pose a lot of risks to minors who have easy access. It is, therefore, necessary for parents to monitor and guide their children on content consumption.
It is worth noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) has included ‘gaming disorder’ in the recent revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health.
Beyond exposure to inappropriate media and broadcast content, however, there are many other challenges that should concern parents and authorities, especially during this festive season, when merry-making activities and festivities are inevitable.
During festivities, if not well monitored and/or guided, minors are easily influenced into vices such as use of alcohol and drug abuse, access to pornographic material, sex and other vices.
The recent revelation that more than 12,000 students Kirinyaga County had tested positive for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is more likely than not a reflection of the reality on the ground in many other counties.
It is also a pointer that something is definitely not right as far as the inculcation of moral values in our young people is concerned.
Cases of school-going children being arrested for indulging in alcoholism have also recently been reported in some parts of the country, a wake-up call to parents/caregivers/authorities and society at large, to be more vigilant and provide requisite advice and guidance to children.
It is also during this long holiday season that children get involved in ‘disco matanga’, especially in the rural areas. While disco matanga in itself is a cultural practice among certain communities, the involvement and admission of minors to this nocturnal activity is unfortunate.
Organizers of disco matanga and other cultural events ought to vet and ensure that minors are not admitted at all times. Similarly, operators of video dens and gaming shops should not admit underage children.
The Festive season is also that time when many minors go missing, are defiled or are killed in unclear circumstances. Parents, caregivers and society at large, therefore, need to be extra vigilant and monitor the activities that the minors will be engaging in.
Parents should take advantage of the parental controls available on various ICT devices and media platforms to bar their children from accessing adult material. They should also set screen time rules and encourage their children to engage in other social activities like sporting.
It may not be easy but while children are on holiday, parents must remain vigilant and should monitor the whereabouts of their children and keep track of the company they keep to stop them from going astray. Importantly, relevant Government and private sector agencies such as the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), Nacada, Security agencies, among others, should heighten awareness on children’s safety and take action against people who violate children’s rights and spaces.
Remember, protecting children from harmful material and other risks is not a one-off activity but a collective responsibility.
Nelly Muluka is a Communications Strategist