UCC Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi. Photo/File
KAMPALA - The numbers of children suffering cyber harassment, bullying in the country is gradually growing according to the Uganda Child Rights NGO Network (UCRNN).
Through their helpline (116) Sauti and their awareness campaigns in schools, the body has increasingly received reports from children who were either sexually harassed or going through immoral behaviour like drugs.
According to figures shared by UCRNN, they received eight cases in 2016, 76 in 2017 and 158 in 2018.
Stella Ayo-Odongo, the Executive Director of UCRNN told New Vision that the numbers of children who facing cyber harassment could be higher since very few report to them.
“Cases of online harassment are many, children are engaging in sexual relation relationships at an early age, and they are silently dying,” she said in a recent interview.
It’s based on this background that Ayo called upon government to come up with stringent online, internet laws which would limit children from indulging in adult activities.
She made the remarks last week during the commemoration of the safer internet day which took place at Uganda Communications Commission House in Bugolobi.
The idea was backed Godfrey Mutabazi the UCC Executive Director, who said children are quietly accessing pornographic literature online, without the attention of parents.
Mutabazi said internet is not regulated and the existing laws are weak to protect children against cyber harassment, immorality.
“Parents have bought gadgets like smartphones for their children, but the dangers are real, we need to find solutions now,” he said.
In addition, he said in the next five years, about 50% of the country’s population will have access to internet, and that this could be disastrous if not well planned.
“UCC is thinking about filters at the gateways to define what should be viewed and what shouldn’t be consumed by children,” he added.
According to the International Data Group (IDG) Connect with its offices in UK and USA, bullying has escalated from school and home setting to online platforms.
According to the institution, previously, bullying was a problem that could be left on the playground as a bullying victim returned to the safe, protective walls of home.
In addition, IDG says more than a dozen American teenagers committed suicide due to cyber bullying in 2012 alone, and all evidence suggests that the bullying-induced suicide rate is rising.
A British study, for example, found that half of all suicides among young people were related to bullying.
Mutabazi says, internet has no boundaries, and that without filters and strict laws, such activities might haunt the country in future.
“We can say we are safe, but the future will be challenging once all children are allowed to access internet. We need to be prepared,” he said.
Safer Internet day
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) joined the rest of the world to commemorate the Safer Internet Day which takes place on February 5, every year.
The day, was run under a global theme,” Together for a safer Internet” to present an opportunity for stakeholders to re-ignite the efforts in creating a better internet for everyone.
UCC hosted a panel discussion focusing mainly on four skills that is respect, responsibility, reasoning and resilience while using different online platforms.