The 2017 Ghana country report has revealed that, 7 in 10 children reported that they were exposed to sexual images on online devices, but it was equally common to be exposed to sexual images via TV.

The report said, 70% of the children who reported that they had seen sexual images online, 6 in 10 of them reported that it happened on social networking sites. However, 36% of them reported to had felt uncomfortable, 27% felt embarrassed or shy, while 26% felt neither happy or upset.

The study further indicated that, 2 in 10 children reported they had received sexual messages from someone else in the past 12 months, whereas 1 in 10 children reported they had sent, shared or posted sexual messages.

The study which was conducted by UNICEF in collaboration with the government of Ghana through the Ministry of Communications said, the impact of the internet on the lives of children was a significant concern globally, both in terms of opportunities and the potential risks it exposes children to.

The report also looked at the enormous opportunities and benefits children gets from the use of the internet and the kind of support structures, supervision and control measures that exists to protect them online.

The report was launched by the Minister if Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (MP), as part of the National Cyber Security Awareness Month dubbed, ‘Risks and Opportunities Related to Child Online Practices in Ghana’ on Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC).

The report encompasses insights on access, usage, user habits, risk and opportunities related to the use of the internet among children aged between nine and seventeen years. In all 2,000 children and 1,000 parents or caregivers were interviewed across the ten regions of the country.

In her address at the launch, Minister for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, noted that, internet revolution had transformed how information and communication were accessed and how it had increasingly become a valuable resource for children and young people to learn, socialize, innovate and connect.

Meanwhile, she explained that, the increase in the accessibility to internet had resulted in an increased threat to the safety and security of children online. “This is because they can be exposed to bullying, online abuse, harassment, or identity theft, which can negatively impact their well-being,” She added.

“Child online protection requires a multi organizational approach with local, national and international co-operation and I would like to encourage all stakeholders to get involved in the collaborative effort to protect children within the virtual online space and ensure a safe and secure online experience for children everywhere,” Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful called.

She emphasized that, ” This is why government, through the Ministry of Communications and the National Cyber-Security Centre has therefore stepped up a national awareness campaign aimed at promoting a Safer Digital Ghana, with children identified as the key targets.

Child Online Protection (COP), is a key component of the campaign to identify the risks and opportunities associated with the use of the internet among children and adolescents.”

It is expected that by the end of the campaign in 2024, children in Ghana would have an increased knowledge and understanding on basic cyber-security skills and would be able to use the internet in a safe and responsible manner.

Anne-Claire Dufay, UNICEF Representative in Ghana, also said, “UNICEF is committed to protection of children from violence, exploitation and abuse and has been supporting the development and implementation of key national child-related policies which seeks to prevent and protect children from all forms of violations.”

“Similarly, UNICEF is keen to prevent and reduce the risks associated with the use if the internet while enabling more children and young people to reap the benefits of a secure and safe online space,” She added.

The study, she said, shows his internet and digital technology are helping and hindering children’s learning, well-being and social relationships. She said, “It further outlines some practical recommendations that can guide more effective programming to amplify the opportunities the digital world offers to children, and to reduce the risks they have to contend with as users.”

She however, commended government and the Ministry of Communications for their enthusiastic commitment to the protection of children in the online space.

Meanwhile, she assured of their continued partnership with government of Ghana and other stakeholders in creating a safe and protective environment for children.

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