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Danger lurks as children meet strangers online

By | October 8th 2010

By Ally Jamah

A girl has confessed how a man she met online impregnated her and disappeared into thin air.

She said she never saw the man again after he "accomplished his mission."

A survey conducted two months ago shows 26 out of 100 children interviewed said they had a face-to-face meeting with someone they had met for the first time on the Internet. And more alarming is that none of them told their parents of these meetings.

After surveying the online life of 135 children in Nairobi aged between 11 and 18 years, the researchers found out that children often accept friendship requests from strangers, who then make sexual advances.

"One girl wrote on how she accepted a friendship request from a man she didn’t know. Upon further scrutiny of his profile she realised he was a married adult. He asked to meet her, but she declined. He then started threatening her," the report says.

The report, Beyond Borders: An Exploratory Study on Child Online Safety in Kenya, reveals how Kenyan children, especially girls, are vulnerable to sexual predators through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Cradle, an NGO dealing with children, and Plan International commissioned the study, which is yet to be released officially.

The report also warns many children are posting personal information like e-mail addresses, mobile numbers, home and school addresses online, making it easier for sex predators and traffickers to trace them.

Talk to them

Sexually explicit or violent pictures and videos are also available to curious kids at the touch of a button.

Cradle Programme Manager for Child Rights and Awareness, Brian Were said most parents do not keep tabs on what their children do online.

"Although most parents are aware their kids are online, they do not know what they are doing there and who they are communicating with. The problem cannot be wished away," he said.

Children access the Internet without restriction through mobile phones, cyber cafes and home computers. The number of children online is rising fast, as the Internet becomes cheaper and more available. Urban children are also becoming tech-savvy at early ages.

The report urges parents to be more involved in the online life of their children by discussing the dangers of sexual predators.



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