Parents should keep their children Net safe - GulfToday

Parents should keep their children Net safe

Online safety

Parental oversight of children, who go online for educational and entertainment purposes, is highly recommended by experts.

The concerns of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah (SCFA), over the risks that the internet poses for children are very pertinent and call for serious thinking.

She has called on social and academic institutions to adopt rigorous scientific standards when raising awareness amongst families, children and youth on cybersecurity and educating them on ways to overcome the myriad challenges of rapid technological advancement.

Nowadays, it is very common to see people busy with their mobile phones. In particular, children can be seen glued to the tablets or cellular phones. Now, it is hard to make out whether the site they are surfing, or the person they are interacting with, is safe in the first place. A good number of parents are unaware of the pitfalls of such acts.

In this regard, Her Highness indicated that the latest findings from the Child Safety Department (CSD), an affiliate of SCFA, have revealed that a considerable percentage of families are not fully aware of the dangers of the internet, and stressed that any such percentage, no matter how small, was not acceptable as it pertains to the safety of children and youth.

Sheikha Jawaher made these comments following the release of the findings of the ‘Community Awareness on Safe Use of the Internet and Social Media Sites’ research study carried out by CSD under Her Highness’ directives and support.

Her Highness said: “The rapid advancement of digital communication tools has numerous benefits, but also brings to light several challenges. Boycotting technology to avoid its drawbacks is not a plausible solution as these technologies are necessary for education, skills development, and for communication with others. Therefore, more proactive measures are needed, such as providing guidance for our children and being vigilant about their activities. We need to focus on prevention methods instead of attempting to address only the negative impact. We are confident this goal can be achieved through diligent work and cooperation between the various segments of society and its institutions. This is what our wise leadership urges us to do, and entities from both public and private sectors agree on its importance.”

She has emphasised how to strike an effective balance between keeping up with shifts in technology on the one hand, and society’s need for knowledge that is beneficial and supports our values and traditions on the other.

The CSD study, conducted over a period of 14 months, surveyed 12,344 households in Sharjah including Emirati families and expatriate residents in the administrative suburban divisions across Sharjah city.

The study revealed that 72.3 per cent of families allow their children to use smart devices. It has also revealed that 37.6 per cent of parents do not review their children’s activities on the internet, and that gaming websites and YouTube are the top sites frequented by their children. The study also revealed that 55.5 per cent of respondents used parental control programmes to monitor the websites their children accessed and the social media applications they downloaded.

Parents often rely on filtering software to block children’s online contact with bullies, predators, and other inappropriate material, but a 2017 study casts doubts on the effectiveness of these tools.

In this regard, police have a role to play too. The Abu Dhabi Police, ADP, have already urged parents to monitor their children’s usage on the internet and social media, to protect them from exploitation and e-blackmailing, particularly at a time when overemphasis on everything online has become the new normal.

Parents should keep track of their child’s Net activity without sounding intrusive or irritating. It is a balancing act that needs time to master. Because ultimately it is the child’s safety that is at stake.

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