Jos webinar on staying safe online alerts young Nigerians on dangers, benefits of internet

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by Nwakaego Alajemba

A panel of experts at a recent webinar on staying safe online for young people has alerted on the need for citizens to leverage on the benefits of the internet and also be aware of its inherent dangers.

Organised by Jos based Child Cyber Protection (CC-Pro) organisation, the webinar focused on young people, who make up a substantial population of internet users in Nigeria with the theme: ‘Explore! Expand! And stay safe online.’

More young people are logging online and since the COVID-19 pandemic, a higher percentage of Nigerians, particularly adolescents, are now frequent users of the internet, observed the panel.

With the emphasis on social, physical distancing and the push for online activities whether in education, commerce, or regular workflows in the private and public sectors, online crimes and abuses have expectedly spiked.   

It has become imperative to raise awareness on personal safety and security risks to private information and other assets associated with using the internet, said the panel consisting of legal IT and media practitioners.

Authorities, parents and other stakeholders need to raise awareness on the dangers of being unguardedly receptive to harmful, fake or toxic information, the required self-protection from online frauds, pornography particularly of the pedophile-type; and other computer related crimes, as well as the legal implications or institutional succour that victims could access, the panel submitted.  

“There are laws in Nigeria that protect people online and also punish cyber-offenders i.e. people who commit cyber-crimes,” said Rose Pwajok, a barrister, while speaking on laws protecting young people from sexual predators online in Nigeria.

She said the Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015 renders the predator a criminal and is punishable by law with a one year jail term sentence or a fine of two million naira or both. “Now based on the various degrees of offences the jail term can span up to 10 years. For example, child Cyber pornography is a crime punishable by 10 years imprisonment and also up to 20 million naira as fines. Child cyber porn means producing, procuring or distributing child pornographic material,” Pwajok added.

Abuja based Wilson Nanle, also a barrister spoke on the need for parents to show more vigilance in digital contents that their children or wards are exposed to to make them less vulnerable to fake news or hate content.

“Parents should be more conversant with what their children are doing online. Schools should be more conversant with the facilities and internet privileges they provide their students as cybercrime is a criminal offense punishable by law. Ignorance is not an excuse in the court of law. Posting any hate content or fake content could attract10 – 15 years imprisonment or a fine according to the Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015,” said Nanle.

According to him, young people need to be careful because once convicted, “you have that record already to your name as an ex-convict. Young people need to know that if they post on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter or Facebook, even when they delete such posts, the internet has a data of it.”

For Pwajok, one of the most worrisome trends is the consequences of becoming a victim of sexual predators online.

Often, “these predators could get a young person depressed after he/she has shared nudes with the [felons]; they use the nudes to blackmail their victims which sometimes leads the victim to committing suicide.”

Dr Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe, an IT expert and the INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Benue State, who spoke on Fraud Alert: Dangers teenagers face online, said that “safety is not a gadget but is a state of mind.” He said cyber criminals are as much on the internet as there are armed robbers on the highways.

“Do not follow spam messages and give details about yourself or your account information as you might fall victim of internet fraudsters,” he warned.

According to him, one of the ways scammers get to their victims is during festive seasons. They send greeting cards online, once clicked on, a link appears asking for one’s personal details.

Young people also become easy victims by falling for fake scholarship schemes, lottery entries usually through spam emails, or text messages requesting for specific data, sometimes they ask for parents’ or victim’s passport details, he added.

Identity theft is one of the biggest crimes online today so also is cyber bullying, said Goshwe while offering tips on staying safe online even as he advised parents to download apps and software that will protect their wards online. “Once online, you are your biggest protection,” Goshwe added.

Earlier, CEO/Co-Founder of CC-Pro, Delmwa Gogwim, had tasked government and other stakeholders on the need to promote a culture of healthy and safe use of internet among the increasing population of young Nigerians online.

“The forum is targeting young people to uncover laws that protect them while online and how to stay clear of certain cyber activities that could undermine them for life,” said Gogwim whose organisation has initiated a series of programmes to educate on the benefits and dangers of the internet.

The webinar was chaired by CEO of Knowhow Media and Market Intelligence International Limited (KMI), publishers of IT Edge News. Olusegun Oruame.

Cyber Safety Rules Everyone Needs to Follow

  • Take Passwords Seriously, Very Seriously.
  • Invest time, money, and effort in enhancing your awareness.
  • Always use a VPN while browsing the web.
  • Don’t download anything from a website or content provider whom you don’t trust.
  • Be careful what you post.

Dangers to be aware of

  • Cyberbullying.
  • Cyber Predators. …
  • Posting Private Information.
  • Phishing.
  • Falling for Scams.
  • Accidentally Downloading Malware.
  • Posts that Come Back to Haunt a Child Later in Life.

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