‘NetSmartz Campaign’ set for April launch in New Providence

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Dr. Novia T. Carter-Lookie (BIS Photo)

The National Child Protection Council (NCPC) will launch its ‘NetSmartz Campaign’ in New Providence during the month of April as part of the activities observing Child Protection Month. The NetSmartz Campaign highlights the dangers associated with the improper use of the Internet. The campaign had “an extremely successful” Pilot in Long Island during a recent visit by NCPC officials in March 2019. Child Protection Month has been observed annually in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas since 1992 – marking 27 consecutive years.  The month, is a collaboration between the Child Protection Unit of the Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development; the National Child Protection Council; and the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Unit of the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Novia T. Carter-Lookie, a noted Bahamian child psychologist and Deputy Chairperson of the National Child Protection Council, said the Internet has drastically changed the way that “wired children” interact with the world.“Wired children (alpha generation) have access to in-depth knowledge, tools to express their creativity, and people from all over the world. Yet this fascinating new way to connect to friends, family and the world, offers new risks to our young, impressionable minds.” Dr. Carter-Lookie said the National Child Protection Council will use the NetSmartz Programme to address the new risks in the following manner: inappropriate content, online privacy, sexting, online sexual solicitation and cyber-bullying. 

The programme seeks to educate children on how to recognize potential internet risks; engages children in a two-way conversation about on and offline risks; and empowers children to help prevent themselves from being exploited and to report victimization to a trusted adult. “Trusted adult is such a wonderful topic because parents feel that they should make up the rules in terms of who is the child’s trusted adult,” Dr. Carter-Lookie said. “I think parents should guide children in deciding who their trusted adult should be, but ultimately the decision should be the child’s; the adult whom they feel they can trust; whom they feel safe with; whom they respect; whom [they] feel will listen to them and whom they feel will assist them best if they are in a dangerous situation. “The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) grants children certain rights and so they have the right to choose who their trusted adult should be. What I would say to parents is that they should talk to their child/children about it and guide them in the right direction; but ultimately the child/children should have the right to decide whom their trusted adult should be.”

Dr. Carter-Lookie outlined the criteria for selecting a trusted adult. “A trusted adult should be someone who will have the child’s best interests at heart; someone whom the child has a good relationship with. This should be a person whom the child/children can turn to when they have a problem. This is the person whom the child/children can turn to if something bad happens to them. This is someone whom when the child/children have a difficult or embarrassing question, they can turn to for appropriate answers. “Trusted adults should be persons who will ensure that they receive proper guidance, and should be the person who, if abuse is happening in a child’s life, will stop the abuse.”

Dr. Lookie addressed the kinds of persons who may be considered trusted adults for children.“We encourage children (in collaboration with parents) to consider as their trusted adults: nurses, the police, their teachers, parents, and grandparents. For each child, the trusted adult may be different, but I want each child to realize that they should have a cadre – maybe four or five people – whom they can consider trusted adults so that if something happens to them; if they have a question to ask; if they just want someone to listen to them, those persons are ready, willing and available to assist. “And so that is why we tell our children that if they tell one trusted adult and that person does not respond, they keep on telling other trusted adults until they receive the help that they want and/or need.”

Dr. Carter-Lookie said the NCPC has developed four safety rules parents should encourage their children to follow when using the Internet. They are as follows: I will tell my trusted adult if anything makes me feel sad, scared or confused; I will ask my trusted adult before sharing information such as my name, address and phone number; I won’t meet face-to-face with anyone from the Internet; and I will always use good etiquette and not be rude or mean online.“ Those four rules are designed to ensure that our children are kept safe whilst online. It helps them to understand how to interact online. It helps them to recognize danger online and most importantly, it helps our children to realize that certain behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable online. “The two major ones for me are children releasing personal information online, and the other one is children feeling that it’s okay to meet persons face-to-face since they may have spoken to the person online for two to three months. And so those four rules are basically geared to safeguard our children,” Dr. Carter-Lookie added.

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