Children are not passive ‘victims’, they are active participants and they want to have a say in matters that concern them.
Media Monitoring Africa’s (MMA) Children’s team took a unique approach in preparing their submission in response to Film and Publication Board’s (FPB) proposed Online Regulations. These draft regulations are supposed to be about the protection of children. MMA decided to go ask children what they think needs to be done. The responses were very interesting.
The children who participated in MMA’s consultation raised a number of concerns about the FPB’s proposed regulations including:
- Majority of the children consulted were not aware of what the FPB is and what they do. All of them had no knowledge about the draft regulations.
- The children could identify various ways that they can protect themselves online. Most of them felt quite responsible for that role.
- The discussion on online safety showed that children currently are aware of ways in which they can protect themselves online, and while they can protect themselves they can use some help from parents, teachers etc.
- Importance was placed on the easy access to information on the internet and how the regulations might hamper this.
- In relation to all of the regulations, the older children had concerns about confidentiality and privacy. They expressed fears about their rights to privacy and access to information being violated should the regulations be passed as law.
“I am responsible because I am the one who has the cell phone, my parents could have bought me the cell phone to contact them during an emergency but because I use it for social media, it is my responsibility to make sure that I don’t log on to social media platforms that could affect me or are dangerous for me.”
“I understand that they are trying to protect us but for one we do not have the money to be wasting going to do all these checks. We don’t have the time cos the whole purpose of these social media networks is to get things across really fast; it is supposed to be efficient. But then if you are going to be doing all this, it just defeats the whole purpose”
These consultations revealed that children can offer great insights. More importantly, they revealed that children are worth listening to. There is a greater need for larger scale platforms, such as the one provided by MMA, that allow children the opportunity to engage with policies that affect them so that more children’s voices can be heard.