By Olabode Agboola
The internet has become integral part of human existence, it avails remarkable opportunities to learn, create contents, collaborate and most importantly to connect with global communities. However, there are inherent challenges that this has created as well. The Director of Training and Education, Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN), Mr. Olabode Agboola has enumerated some of the challenges often faced by children and youths while using the internet. For instance, according to the report of the research published by European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), more than 50% of youth between the ages of 10 to 18 years had experienced at least one kind of cyberbullying in their lifetime. In a survey of 330 internet-active youths, about 6% of these youths have made contacts with peers just for the purpose of sexual activity online, while 10% of the same youths felt that they had been pressed, intimidated, lured, persuaded, or coerced to get engage in sexual activity.
What is most worrisome is that, records have it globally that every half a second, every day, a child explores internet for the first time. More than 750,000 individuals are estimated to have connected to the internet for the purpose of connecting with children for a purpose of sexual activities. This is so challenging, so complex and wide that no one entity can solve it alone. In 2004, an EU SafeBorders initiative project was birthed which has become a landmark event in the online safety calendar. Over the years, similar initiatives sprang up, however, the most prominent among them is Safer Internet Day. This is the brainchild of a company called Insafe. The main reason for launching the initiative was to spread education touching online safety for parents, youths and children. This has now spread out across Europe and other parts of the world. Safer Internet campaign became more prominent globally in the year 2009. Safer Internet is now marked globally on the 8th of February. Cybersecurity Expert Association of Nigeria (CSEAN) considers it their responsibilities to join the global Cybersecurity stakeholders to create impactful awareness sessions on Safer Internet Day.
Cybersecurity experts globally have released some facts and statistics-backed predictions for the year 2022. For instance, according to the CSEAN President, Mr. Remi Afon, “2022 is expected to witness an escalation in cyber-attacks and cybercrime from what we witnessed in 2021. This is based on cybersecurity trends in Nigeria and around the world, coupled with insights from leaders and global experts who assess the evolving cyber environment and the security threats we currently face. From Ransomware and Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams to deepfakes, these predictions are based on existing trends while incorporating the behaviour of cybercriminals and changing technological innovations.” Cyberbullying and sexting are some of the vices that pose concern on the safety of internet users.
The number of reported cases of Cyberbullying increased by 21% between 2015 and 2021. 37% of youths who are active on the internet have reported at least a case of cyberbully. Another big issue considered a risk in the internet space is Sexting. Sexting is an act or practice of sending sexually explicit video, pictures or messages via mobile devices or any other internet-connected devices. According to a publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics in 2018, almost 15% of teenagers have engaged in the act of disseminating sexually explicit video, image, or message to someone else to or a group of persons while 27% of youths have received sext. According to Cyberbullying Research center, the requests among youth to sext increased from 17.5% in 2016 to 23.8% in 2019. This means 25% of youths have been asked to Sext by someone somewhere. Unconsented sexting increased from 4.2% in 2016 to 5.4% in 2019. All these and many more are what necessitate the clarion calls to roll out initiatives towards safer internet access.
Olabode opined that Nigeria is arguably the first country where Internet Safety has been challenged lately by the unprecedented surge experienced in the emergence of “Yahoo Plus”. Before Yahoo Plus, “Yahoo Yahoo” is the regular internet scam often perpetrated by youths in Nigeria, but another dimension to this is the Yahoo Plus. This involves rituals and the use of human parts for metaphysical way of making money, as engendered by the harvesting of human organs. The Yahoo Plus actors leverage internet to identify, connect to and ultimately capture their victims. Social media is mostly used by Yahoo Plus actors.
Mr. Olabode submitted that it is difficult to prevent cyberbullying if one does not understand how apps work and the most likely ways trolls and others can affect children and youths’ well-being. It would be difficult to help youth. So knowing the apps and platforms they operate is one of the technological approaches to helping minimise the occurrences of cyberbully and sextings. Some Social media organizations have come up with some measures to filter hate speeches and other cyberbully related words or graphic. For instance, Instagram is now using AI-to filter text and image using image recognition algorithm to detect bullying in photos, videos and captions. Since 2017. Same AI and other intelligent algorithms can be deployed to tackle Sexting.
How else do we prevent our youths and children from being victims of Internet vices? What roles are expected of parents, Churches, Mosques, Government and organisations in combating internet-induced vices? Join CSEAN as they discuss ways to curb Internet-based vices. A Webinar has been scheduled to hold at 10.00 a.m. on Saturday the 12th of this month, all is invited. To register for the Webinar, use this link: https://sid2022.eventbrite.co.uk// . On the other hand, if you want CSEAN to delivere a free tailored awareness session for your organization, please contact them via their office address or via their email. Their Office address is; Suite C4 HCR Plaza 521 Sylvester U. Ugoh Crescent By Ecobank Jabi Abuja, Nigeria. Their email address is: email@example.com.
* Agboola is the Director of Training and Education, Cybersecurity Expert Association of Nigeria (CSEAN).