The temptation by any parent to snoop on what their children are watching on TV, mobile, or the internet comes naturally. The fast-evolving digital space with an accelerated and highly accessible multitude of engagement platforms should keep almost all parents worried. But not so, according to a research report conducted by global research firm 60 Decibels for social impact firm, Akili Network. The company is credited with creating AkiliKids, a range of digitally delivered audio-visual shows designed to reshape the African edutainment landscape for children.
The report whose launch this morning at a Nairobi hotel was presided over by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Director General, Ezra Chiloba, found that just 27 percent of Kenyan parents with teenagers aged between 12-19 regularly spoke to their children about what they consume online; a staggering 44 percent were inconsistent, 18 percent rarely, while 11 percent didn’t even bother.
60 Decibels spoke to over 300 parents across five counties including Nairobi, Kiambu, Nyeri, and Nakuru, and revealed that more teenagers are visiting internet sites, particularly from mobile phones than is expected. This, said Akili Network President and Co-Founder, Jesse Soleil should sound the alarm bells and make parents pay close attention to their children’s online activities. Speaking when he released the report of the survey, Mr. Soleil said the study offered the company an insight into the impact of using educative entertainment content to shape teenage knowledge, perception, and behavior.
“This survey has shown us that while parental control tools are available for managing Internet activity by children, they are not sufficient. Parents need to increase their interaction, especially with their teenagers, have conversations frequently about topical issues and share with them the stories coming from shows which are delivered by their peers on social issues they can relate with,”
Citing the company’s Flash Squad series, a TV production that was launched last year, he noted that the show had illustrated, effectively, that content designed and delivered with social impact themes such as cyber security, online safety, climate change, and environmental conservation, deeply engage and positively influence Kenya’s teenagers aged between 10 – 19 years, whose population is estimated to be about a quarter of the national population.
The launch of the study, he noted, provides a moment to pause and reflect on the post-Covid impact of the struggles that parents and teachers are confronted with when trying to keep children safe while also looking ahead to what is possible to assure their well-being and protection of children from becoming victims of online gangsterism.
At least 83 percent of the respondents said their confidence levels had increased in using the Internet after gaining tips and safer navigation knowledge from the Flash Squad show – which was highlighted in the report as a successful proof of possibility. Most parents surveyed also expressed a need for the show to expand its scope of the issues it covered to include topics like peer pressure, noting that their children connected with the characters’ youthfulness and accessible language – or the teen-speak.
Another finding- how TV can make children and families safer and smarter – by research firm Ipsos, also released at the same event, encouraged parents to use TV more by watching and discussing content together with their children. According to the report, by the end of last year, TV viewing in Kenya stood at 74%, slightly behind radio at 79 percent, and way ahead of the internet at 46 percent. Mobile phone usage stood at a high 92 percent, backing the finding by 60 Decibels that children’s access to content via mobile phones was growing exponentially and needed to be monitored.
TV has proved to be a very effective medium, on par with radio in reach and engagement at the family level, and is safer than personalized platforms like mobile phones or computers.
“Parents will feel the natural urge to eavesdrop on their children’s mobile phones or computers but TV is a family viewing platform which can be regulated without seeming to intrude on the teens’ privacy and thereby creating tension”,
said Mr. Soleil added that both findings should be useful resources for companies and nonprofits that target children to tailor-make their products or services.