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Thursday, Feb 27th

Zimbabwe reviews cyber security to protect youth

Zimbabwe reviews cyber security to protect youth.

Zimbabwe has developed cyber security guidelines for young children, seeking to eradicate risks associated with the growth of the country's telecommunications industry.

There are now over 10 million registered mobile phone users in the Southern African country and internet access via mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, has increased over the past few years.

"Children and young people need to be aware of some of the potentially negative aspects of the technologies. Harmful activities can include bullying and harassment, identity theft and online abuse (such as children seeing harmful and illegal content, or being exposed to grooming for sexual purposes, or the production, distribution and collection of child abuse material),"stated the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) in the Child Online Protection Guidelines released this week.

Potraz has since called for consultation on the guidelines before they become substantive. It adds that "over the last few years, Zimbabwe has witnessed phenomenal growth in the field of telecommunications".

This had led to "massive rollout of broadband access networks in the country" while "broadband services and applications expand into every aspect of life" the "growth in Internet use brings with it numerous cyber security issues".

The guidelines, which are in line with those adopted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), will help in the "protection of our youngest and most vulnerable digital citizens - our children," Potraz says.

The ITU says over 60% of children and young people with internet access talk in chat rooms on a daily basis. About three out of four children that are online are willing to share personal information about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services.

Additionally, as many as one in five children could be targeted by a predator each year, according to the ITU.

Against this backdrop, Zimbabwe says in its child online protection guidelines that usage of the internet by children in the country "should be closely supervised at all times by a parent, guardian or adult".

The "filtering software or other technical measures may also have a particularly useful role to play in supporting the use of the Internet" by young children.

"It would be wise to consider limiting such a young child's potential access e.g. by constructing a list of safe web sites which are age appropriate such as a walled garden. The aim is to provide this age group with the basics in Internet safety, etiquette and understanding," reads a part of the guidelines.

Online bullying has also been identified as a major cause of concern and Potraz says "there are increasing numbers of bullies and real forms of bullying online" that range from offensive websites to harassing text messages, and the sending of unwanted photos via mobile phones.

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