Kenya’s teens and pre-teens are one of the most vulnerable population segments that are prone to abuse by cybercriminals. Akili Network, a Kenyan edutainment firm, has taken initiative to reduce their exposure by speaking to teens aged between 10 and 19, in a language that they understand to educate them about the dangers of cybercrime. It teaches them about trolling, phishing, protecting their online identities, cyberbullying, and mobile money fraud.
Numbering about 12 million and constituting just over 22 percent of the national population, Akili Network President Jesse Solei said that the segment was too important to be left on its own, with cybercriminals targeting them due to their naivety, as they increasingly access internet-enabled devices such as smartphones and computers.
While the Internet offers significant opportunities for children and youth to access information, deepen and widen their social networks and even express themselves, there is no primer for them to use the Internet safely. Parents, communities, and governments are concerned about children going online, yet moderating and curating their online experiences remains an existential challenge.
“The rate at which the teens’ access to the Internet is rising and it is only a matter of time before those especially living in urban areas all do. We need to ensure that they know what to do to avoid falling victim to cybercriminals in case they are attacked or encounter a possible bad actor,” said Mr. Soleil.
He explained that young people, particularly those of secondary school-going age were becoming digital natives at an exponential rate and the onus lay on parents, teachers, and guardians to ensure they experience the internet in a safe manner.
“There is a major gap in Kenya when it comes to addressing teenagers as they tend to have a disparate relationship with their parents,” said Soleil. This, he added, is a driving factor behind the firm’s new production titled Flash Squad, an educational sitcom set in a school environment, with a young relatable cast. The show provides valuable lessons on various relatable aspects of teens’ lives. Keeping in mind teenagers’ short attention span, each episode is cut to just seven minutes – long enough yet also sufficiently brief to deliver the desired impact, fun, and memorability.
Soleil explained that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many children to the Internet earlier than they might have been under normal conditions, especially due to their having to take online lessons. With no handbook for how to use the Internet safely, young people are exposed to a risky environment with potentially difficult situations to navigate. Flash Squad, he noted, attempts to fill that gap by using relatable characters, real-life situations, and a good dose of comedy to help navigate the risks they will face and undesirable encounters, while still enjoying the Internet safely and confidently.