A dangerous trend is cropping up — that of minors predisposing themselves to untold harm due to overexposure to the internet.
We have a worrying situation where millions of innocent children live all their lives on social media and up with astonishing consequences.
Last week, seven girls disappeared from their homes, only to emerge from a stranger’s dwelling in Kiambu after a week-long search. They claimed they had taken time to have fun with a friend they had met online. Till now, only the girls and their host know where they were, what they were doing and why they kept their parents in the dark.
Understandably, this incident sparked fury. There are documented cases where strangers woo minors online only to cyber-bully them. Some victims end up being defiled or turned into sex slaves.
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When so much of our lives revolve around the internet and we fail to take precautions at every juncture, the risks outweigh the gains.
The surge in fraud online continues at alarming levels. In furthering their trade, cybercriminals take advantage of a public deprived of accurate knowledge and parents who pay little or no attention to what young souls do online. Regrettably, many perpetrators of online abuses get away with it. And in some cases, authorities look the other way. It is not only the moral fabric that’s threatened. Security, banking and digital financial services have borne a heavy brunt. A recent report by Liquid Telecoms estimated that Kenya loses around Sh30 billion to cybercrimes every year.
A recent Kaspersky report shows Kenya accounted for one in every four reported online attacks in Africa, a trend some analysts blame on unsafe Wi-Fi connections and the proliferation of unregulated Internet Service Providers.
It should bother us that parents, state agencies and police haven’t done enough to tackle internet crimes. Cyber criminals use smart technologies that evolve fast. For one thing, the State has to invest in superior technologies to crack their web. But still, not all solutions can be provided by the State.
A good way to achieve better outcomes is to watch out for security breaches, be careful to avoid identity theft, know what to do if affected and always keep a close eye on children with access to smartphones and computers. Let every child know about the lurking dangers. As a society, we have a duty to care greatly for one thing and one thing only the future of millions of teenagers who are at risk.