Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of NCC

Digital technologies and regulator’s commitment to child online safety in Nigeria

*The Nigerian Communications Commission, in a recent survey report on young children and digital technologies, critically analyses an approach to alleviate the desire to avoid risks, necessity to access beneficial materials, and balance the immense benefits of digital technologies with children’s protection in cyberspace

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In continuation of its consumer education, sensitisation initiatives and essential regulatory actions, especially in regard to young consumers’ safety in cyberspace, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has researched and published a fresh 164-page report.

ConsumerConnect reports the telecoms regulatory Commission in the country released the final report entitled, “Study On Young Children And Digital Technology: A Survey Across Nigeria” Friday, September 24, 2021, via its corporate Web site.

Children surfing the Internet

The NCC stated study is designed to examine the current issues of young people and digital technologies in consonance with the Child Online Protection Policy of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Rationale for the survey

In the regulator’s description of the motivation for embarking on the timely study, the Commission noted that digital technologies bring speed in communication, education, shopping, entertainment, news, games, fun and much more to everyone, including children.

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It also explained that technologies provide children immediate access to huge tonnes of beneficial materials, and offers them a participatory pathway to involvement in the larger society.

However, the NCC said the proliferation of digital technologies, especially the Internet, fondly described as the Information Superhighway, are also constituting “a vector for cybercriminals to dispense harm, annoyance and other wrongdoings.”

The telecoms regulator noted: “Nowadays, children go online more often, for longer periods, at younger ages with diverse devices and for different purposes.

“The ways in which the Nigerian child seeks out information, socialises, plays and learns have been altered by the rise and use of new technologies.”

Research methodology

The Commission stated that the nationwide study is designed to provide an accurate depiction of how children consume digital technologies in the country.

Accordingly, the NCC research team adopted the respondent pool that was structured in favour of the Nigerian children of 4-16 years of age.

The study explored the children’s device ownership, usage and benefits in pari passu with their awareness of the risks and challenges.

In terms of research methodology, the survey takes a child-centric approach, relying on the children’s voices and views to identify and analyse the challenges they encounter with digital technologies in the country.

According to NCC, the focus is to establish what children actually do online as opposed to what adults think they do.

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It said this includes understanding children’s definitions of digital technology, digital use, online contacts and risky or unsafe behaviour.

In the survey, the report noted the researchers employed stratified multi-stage sampling as the research design chosen for the study.

The telecoms regulator also wrote that the survey population was delineated into four strata with each stratum segmented into four clusters.

This ensured that the survey selected samples in such a way that the target sub-groups were represented in the sample in the same proportion that they exist in the population, said the report.

The NCC further still, noted the survey sourced secondary data through extensive desk review of literature, focusing on tapping into the knowledge, experience and expertise of several organisations and individuals from across the world that are specialists in the field of child online protection.

The experts comprehensively scrutinised relevant extant pertinent laws, acts, charters, policies and guidelines in order to identify gaps and ascertain adequacy of the research problem in the study.

Of digital technologies and related risks in cyberspace

The NCC report indicates the proliferation of digital technologies is also accompanied by an increasing concern about children’s exposure to associated risks and threats on the Net.

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The Commission explained that exposure to risks turns out to be a general side effect of today’s children growing up in a digital world.

“This calls for a pragmatic approach to mitigate the desire to avoid risks and the necessity to access beneficial materials and to balance the immense benefits of digital technology with the safety of the children.

“However, the risks and opportunities of digital technologies are not the same for all children,” the NCC said.

The telecoms regulator in the report further stated that large gaps still exist in access, skills and use, which can affect both online and offline outcomes for children.

The study findings generally, found that children who are vulnerable offline tend to be disadvantaged in online spaces as well.

The survey, according to NCC, yielded results in the following broad lines to include a) articulation of the level of availability and penetration of technological devices to children (4-16 years of age) b) identification and analysis of challenges encountered by the children; and, c) recommendation of regulatory actions to be taken to shore up online protection for the Nigerian child.

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