Malawi: Parents Urged to Closely Monitor Their Children's Use of Technology to Spot Signs of Online Abuse

26 November 2023

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) -- in collaboration with International Telecommunication Union (ITU) -- has concluded three sessions of trainings on child online protection (COP) strategy with a general call on parents and teachers to closely monitor their children's use of technology to spot possible signs of online abuse.

The trainings, held in in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre -- that attracted various stakeholders such as school managers, legal experts, child justice NGOs, the police, churches, among others -- equipped the participants with necessary knowledge and skills to train others on how to protect children from online risks and harm.

MACRA validated the child online protection strategy that was developed with technical assistance from the ITU, which is the United Nations agency for global telecommunications regulations.

The COP strategy's drafting process also involved most of the stakeholders who have completed the training sessions.

At the final session held in Blantyre, MACRA's Broadcasting Director, Matilda Kanjeri said the strategy was "developed in response to the changing communication landscape which has seen a migration of livelihood to the cyberspace, placing children and young adults as one of the most vulnerable groups in our society and requiring deliberate measures to ensure their online safety".

"The reality today is that our children and young adults are the digital generations, born and raised with access to digital information and the ability to navigate new communication technologies.

"The influence that digital technologies have on our lives, especially children and young adults is unparalleled. This exposure also comes with harm, the anonymous nature of the internet allows for misrepresentations and manipulations which puts children and young adults at risk because of their easy trusting nature."

She emphasized that Malawi has not been left behind in as fas as technology advancement is concerned that has come with it a surge in cybercrimes -- "notably mobile money fraud, cyberbullying, harassment, misinformation and the spread of fake news".

"Our children and young adults have been exposed to a wide range of explicit, hateful, sexual, and harmful content making them more vulnerable to exploitation."

She thus impressed on the stakeholders that they are all bound by the common duty to ensure the protection of children from any form of exploitation and to succeed in keeping children safe online, "then we all have to play our part".

On her part, ITU's senior coordinator for digital inclusion ITU, Carla Licciardello urged the trainers to engage parents and teachers how they can spot signs in a child who is being online abused as children work in isolation and are vulnerable to cybercrime risks.

She thus emphasised the importance of the trainings, saying going forward there is need for more collaboration from all stakeholders, policy makers educators to implement a stronger legal framework on child online protection.

The Electronic Transactions & Cyber Security Act (2016), mandates MACRA to ensure that information & communications technology (ICT) users are protected from undesirable impact and recently, the regulator launched the Central Equipment Identification Registry (CEIR), which is meant to register all mobile gadgets and SIM cards in the country.

The CEIR will protect the public from online theft and fraud as it has been connected the system to Airtel and TNM networks and completed the consultation for the SIM cards Regulations, which will bring a new layer of cyber crime security in the country.

Together with the Ministry of Information & Digitalisation, MACRA is also working on five new laws that are aimed at providing proper legal safeguards to Malawians.

Thus Kanjeri said: "Our goal as the Regulator of ICT in this information era is to ensure the provision of communications services for a digitally transformed nation.

"We aim to provide a conducive and enabling environment for the growth of cyberspace and the digital economy. We cannot transform digitally if our cyberspace is not safe for the youth who are the future of this great nation."

She further assured the public that MACRA is committed to ensuring a safe and vibrant cyberspace as an enabler for the digital economy.

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