The events of these past two weeks regarding Facebook and the ease with which our personal data seems to have been readily and wilfully shared with third parties — and the extent to which third-party app developers have apparent access to our digital footprints — should indeed be a cause for concern. But what is perhaps more worrying is our readiness to allow our children access to the internet through smartphones and tablets. While these devices are most definitely a boon when it comes to learning, we should also act with caution in ensuring that our children and their presence on social media and the internet do not in any way represent a threat to their safety or well-being.

The dangers presented by technology, smart devices and social media for our children were highlighted by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah last week. Addressing the opening ceremony of the International Government Communication Forum on Wednesday, Dr Shaikh Sultan warned that technology has the power to mislead children and control them as puppets wherever they are, and he described its overuse as an addiction. He rightfully added that adults and leaders have a responsibility to keep a watchful eye on children’s use of such means of communication, whose proliferation has become chaotic.

The cautions advocated by the Ruler of Sharjah are indeed timely. What’s more, they should serve as a warning to every parent and guardian that we all have a personal responsibility to ensure that our children are protected at all times — and most definitely when they are online.