Child Online Protection
UNICEF works with partners to create a safer digital environment for every child in Ghana
According to Ghana’s 2010 census, 10 per cent of young people between 12-19 years had access to the Internet through mobile phones. Due to the availability of cheap smartphones, this has increased significantly. While there is no data available on sexual abuse, violence and exploitation that children experience online, anecdotal evidence suggests that it is very much an issue.
The greater use of the Internet also increasingly exposes children and young people to the dangers of all forms of sexual abuse. Two in five children have seen sexual images at least once during the past year. Nearly a quarter of all surveyed children received such messages on their phones. Majority of children who have seen them reported that they felt uncomfortable, shy or embarrassed being exposed to these pornographic images.
The same study showed that one in five children had actually met someone face-to-face whom they first got to know on the Internet and 25 per cent of them were upset by this meeting. About half of all the surveyed children expressed difficulty talking to their caregivers about such exposures to sexual images. This is one of the main reasons for suspected severe under-reporting of such incidences in Ghana.
Two in five children in Ghana have received messages containing sexual content on their phones at least once during the past year
There are a number of bottlenecks that need to be overcome to provide all girls and boys safety in their online environment.
For instance, there are gaps in the legal and policy framework despite the 2008 Electronic Transition Act that criminalizes child pornography and spells out some other useful and related provisions. There is no regulatory framework, guidelines and standards related to online protection for mobile phone operators and other telecommunication companies providing Internet services.
In addition, there is an ineffective implementation of the existing legal framework and inadequate capacities of professionals working in key departments like the police, prosecution, judges, staff of Cybercrime Unit and Domestic Violence unit to prevent and respond to cases of online abuse, violence and exploitation.
Resources dedicated to preventing exploitation of children online is insufficient and contributes to hampering progress. Survivors online exploitation may fear stigmatization and so are reluctant to report such cases.
To better understand the risks and opportunities related to child online practices and to generate evidence, UNICEF in Ghana supported a research on the issue which was commissioned in 2018 in collaboration with the Ministry of Communication, Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
In addition, the Ghana Child Online Protection Conference was organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications, Ghana Telecommunications Chamber and other stakeholders which helped recognize the benefits of the Internet for children and created a platform for a national discussion on developing a Child Online Strategy for Ghana. The conference also aimed to secure the commitment of mobile operators (as stakeholders) to drive the discussion further on safe Internet usage for the children of Ghana.