Children using social media stock
Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) has recently posted public awareness messages on their social media channels to educate parents on how to protect their children online. Picture used for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Young children and teenagers share many aspects of their personal lives on social media with their friends and followers. However, oversharing can make them vulnerable to strangers with bad intentions online, too.

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Abu Dhabi Judicial Authority (ADJD) recently posted public awareness messages on their social media channels to educate parents on how children may make themselves vulnerable to online harassment and abuse, and the ways in which parents can ensure that children remain protected.

According to ADJD, children may either share pictures and videos of their family members and household with their friends or followers, or share their own pictures, without realising the dangers they are exposing themselves to.

Here is a detailed look at the advisory issued by ADJD

Children posting pictures of members of the family

ADJD warned users that when children post pictures and videos from their daily lives on social media, it can put them at risk of abuse and exploitation. The authority also shared different common instances, when children may end up oversharing information:

• Posting photographs of family members or exposing their home to people online.
• Live-streaming to friends about special events that shouldn't be made public.
• Sharing details of their daily lives and activities.

Four reasons why children overshare on social media

It is also important to understand why children share their private lives on social media, to better address the root cause of the problem. According to ADJD, here are some of the reasons why children may overshare:

1. For attention or to boast about their private belongings to their group of friends.
2. For social approval from friends or classmates.
3. Lack of parental control.
4. Lack of awareness of the consequences of sharing personal information with strangers and friends on social media.

ADJD warned parents that when children expose their private lives, they become vulnerable to abuse, identity theft and blackmail from online predators.

Three ways parents can protect their child’s privacy on social media

ADJD shared the following advice for parents and caregivers to address the issue:
1. Parents should raise their own awareness about the dangers of sharing their personal life on social media.
2. Inform children about the different ways of online blackmail and the risks of disclosing their address and location. Exposing details about their home and life can put a child’s life at risk.
3. Schools should also take on the role of educating children about protecting their lives.

Children sharing their own pictures online

Sometimes, children might post an inappropriate video or photo of themselves on social media to gain popularity and approval from their friends or followers on social media.

According to ADJD, the reason why children may feel the need to act out this way on the internet is either due to weak or affectionate parenting, which can be too permissive, or on the other end of the spectrum a punitive approach, where children end up rebelling. This leads to them taking on harmful habits as a means of emotional release and proof of self-worth.

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Also, certain social media platforms have content specifically targeting children, the exposure to which is not controlled by parents. Children adopting the behaviour that is promoted through such content can lead to exploitation, blackmail, bullying and a loss of identity.

How does the UAE protect children online?

In March 2018, the UAE’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) and National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing launched the ‘Child Digital Safety’ initiative. The initiative, which is now known as the UAE Digital Wellbeing Online Platform, is a joint effort to raise awareness among children and schools about online threats and challenges, and promote a more safe and constructive use of the internet.

The platform teaches educators, parents and children about online bullying and how to set parental controls, the dangers of excessive screen time and unmonitored gaming, through workshops and programmes.

UAE laws protecting children’s data and privacy online

The UAE has federal laws in place that protect children from online harm and also empower them by securing their privacy.

Article 29 of Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 Concerning Child Rights, also known as Wadeema's Law, states: “The telecommunications companies and internet service providers shall notify the competent authorities or the concerned entities of any child pornography materials being circulated through social media sites and on the internet and shall provide necessary information and data on the persons, entities or sites that circulate such material or intend to mislead the children.”

In addition, the Dubai Data Law from 2015 has legislation that ensures data protection and privacy of all individuals, including that of children.

Top tips for parents for protecting children online

The UAE is a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is a United Nations (UN) specialised agency for information and communication technologies.

Here are some of ITU’s top tips for parents, carers, educators and guardians to protect children online:
• Have a discussion with your children about online social media behaviour, try and do some online activities with them, to guide them on how to navigate such platforms.
• Always consider the ‘age of digital consent’, which is the minimum age requirement for users to join social media or other online platforms.
• Educate children on the dangers of meeting up with a stranger.
• Identify the technology, devices and services across your family or household.
• Control the use of credit cards and other payment mechanisms.
• Help your children understand and manage their personal information.
• Consider whether filtering and blocking or monitoring programmes can help and support your family.
• Know how to report a problem.
• Ensure children and young people understand what it means to post photographs on the internet.
• Agree on expectations as a family about using the internet and personal devices.
• Be aware that online advertising can be inappropriate or misleading.
• Be aware of all the online and mobile services used by your children.
• Create a culture of support in the home so that children and young people feel able to seek support.