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Coalition in Kenya Working to Protect Children from Internet Abuse

Kenyan government and advocacy groups teamed up to inform parents and protect children against Internet abuse

Kenyan government and advocacy groups teamed up to inform parents and protect children against Internet abuse

As Kenya becomes increasingly wired to the Internet, problems are cropping up regarding security and safety. Of particular concern are dangers about exploitation and harassment of children. To that end, a children's organization, the Kenyan government and Microsoft East Africa Ltd. have launched a program to warn parents about Internet hazards.

What pops up on computer screens in Kenya has many educators and parents worried.

They say the Internet has the potential to exploit Kenya's young people if not properly managed.

Alarm bells went off for high school principal Joan Muoti shortly after her daughter signed up for the popular social networking site Facebook.

"Somebody invited her in the Facebook. They kept on chatting, chatting. One time he says, 'I will be coming to Kenya and I would like to meet you,'" High School Principal Joan Muoti says she felt uncomfortable about a stranger wanting to meet her child.

Other parents have similar worries, and children in Africa may be particularly at risk.

Mark Matunga is the education and citizenship program manager with Microsoft East Africa Limited.

"Because of the level of poverty, and being told that, 'Hey, you know what, I can send you a few dollars, I can come and visit you, I can buy you a ticket, you come to my country.' Those are some very inviting conversations that an African child can begin to have with somebody in the West, unsuspecting that this person in the West could just basically be preying on them," Matunga explained.

Matunga says what also makes African children vulnerable is that their parents and teachers typically are not knowledgeable about Internet technology.

And there are other possible dangers, such as cyber-bullying and pornography.

So Microsoft East Africa Limited., the Kenyan government and the advocacy group The Cradle Children's Foundation have teamed up to inform parents and protect children against Internet abuse.

"The Internet is taking over shaping the character of our children. That is the basis of this project: we want to just raise awareness so as parents to be able to understand the dangers children are actually going through, Brian Weke, foundation's program manager said. Then they can actually guide the children in relation to accessing the net."

The program consists of establishing parameters that parents can use to block certain Websites, computer games and search terms.

Organizers also conduct information sessions to teach parents about how to use the Internet safely.

"Anything you put online is permanent on some of these social networks," Matunga stated. "Somebody can easily take that photo of your child and manipulate it in whatever way that they want."

Matunga says Microsoft, the children's foundation and the Kenyan government are working hard to educate parents, teachers and businesses on how best to protect Kenya's young from Internet abuse.