March 19, 2023
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Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin has stated that the present and future of Ghanaian children are in grave danger if the country does not increase efforts and measures to protect them from the dangers of early social media use and consumption.

According to him, over 4.5 billion people worldwide used social media by October 2021, with other estimates published by indicating that social media use has increased sharply since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr. Afenyo-Markin stated on the floor of Parliament last Friday that, while social media sites can serve as valuable platforms for both adults and children to acquire critical information, the internet is not always beneficial.

The Effutu NPP MP stated that more deadly dangers are emanating from children’s social media consumption, which requires immediate attention.

These include, according to Australia’s Raising Children Network, (a) exposure to inappropriate or upsetting content, such as mean, aggressive, violent, or sexual comments or images. (b) posting inappropriate content, such as embarrassing, provocative, or nude photos or videos of themselves or others; and (c) sharing personal information with strangers, such as images, date of birth, location, or address. (d) cyberbullying; (e) excessively targeted advertising and marketing, including that aimed at adults; and (f) exposure to data breaches, such as having their data sold to other organizations.

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He wants Parliament to firmly direct the Ministries of Interior, Communications and Digitalisation, as well as Gender, Children and Social Protection to expedite work on developing a comprehensive online child protection policy for adoption and implementation within the immediate future.

Additionally, Afenyo-Markin is requesting that Parliament take the lead in amending the Cyber Security Act 2020 to require the Cyber Security Authority to submit separate biannual reports to the House for review and further action on “detailed measures it has taken to specifically safeguard Ghanaian children from the harmful effects of social media use and consumption.”

Thirdly, through the efforts of private members, the House must draft and enact a new law that forbids Ghanaian minors under 16 from accessing or using social media.

In that law, offending parents or guardians – through whose negligence and or acquiescence children consume or use harmful social media content or become owners of social media accounts – must face punitive fines.

Minister for Communication and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said “the problem goes beyond social media usage – the dangers online that our children are exposed to.”

She explained that some of these risks are posed not only by social media platforms, but also by browsing other online platforms.

“It is not so much of social media that is the evil, but the use to which we put it that may cause some harm to all of us,” she noted and added, “The Cyber Security Act provides some of the most far-reaching protection that our children can have, as indicated in the statement.”

According to the minister, almost all of the dangers to which they are exposed are described in the law, and provisions are made for some protection against them.

She argued that it is one thing to make a legal provision for dealing with deviant behaviour, and quite another to enforce those legal provisions.

“Thankfully, we set up the Cyber Security Act which is a very active child-online protection unit which works very closely with both civil society and security agencies to clamp down on action in contravention of the law.

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