- Are you a bully, or the bullied? Or knows someone who belongs to either type, this article is for you.
- Realy simple steps parents/guardians need to take to curb online safety threats young people face.
- Even the best technology cannot be a substitute to open communication between a parent and a child
Scene 1: “Today is my birthday,” so declares a pre-teen. “I’m gonna share my story.” She clicks pictures with friends and posts them. Scene 2: Friends sing for her the “Happy birthday” song, again with short videos, uploaded onto her social media page. Then she announces an after-school sports activity and declares: “Let’s meet outside school at 4pm.” Scene 3: Another post: “I’ll be waiting for you at my place to celebrate. This is my address and my phone number.” She feels proud: she’s popular and has many friends.
These seem rather like innocuous scenes. However, they are riddled with risks. Let’s backtrack: Scene 1: Now, the whole world knows your birthday, and much more about you. Scene 2: The world now knows what you’re like, who your friends are, the sport you play and what time. Scene 3: The world now knows your address and phone number, too.
Friends or fiends?
What children share online about themselves could be used by someone who may not be much of a friend, warn experts. One important piece of advice: “When it comes to online safety for children, there’s no substitute for open communication between children and parents,” says Akram Khazi, chief executive of RAS Infotech, a Dubai-based cyber security solutions provider.
Khazi cites some basic solutions to online threats young people face. "The first, is to deploy the right technology to protect children. Their device should be running with latest or updated software, with the right patches. Whether it’s a desktop laptop, mobile or any device, it should be up to date with latest versions of OS and an antivirus,” Khazi said.
Another important tip: When not in use, webcams should be covered (by tape or paper). Nowadays, a lot of malware can actually misuse your device camera. It is not advisable to allow cameras to go uncovered, as it makes you vulnerable to access by hackers.
Another important tip: "When not in use, webcams should be covered (by tape or paper). Nowadays, a lot of malware can actually misuse your device camera. It is not advisable to allow cameras to go uncovered, as it makes you vulnerable to access by hackers.”
Moreover, for younger children (below 12-13 years or primary-school age), it’s better to enable "parental control" (a software extension that usually comes in most antivirus software). This enables parents to prevent children's access to unwanted sites or search results. With this, including safe search, it helps safeguard your child’s online experience.
Content: being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material;
Contact: being subjected to harmful online interaction with other users; and
Conduct: personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of, or causes harm.
Apart from technology, parents need to have an open communication line with their children. These are the key points to discuss openly with children, Akram suggests:
1. Cyber bullying: What are the signs and how to avoid and report it. Students must be made aware of school policies and report bullying or any objectionable online content they find.
2. Inappropriate /discriminatory cyber communication.
3. An open line of communication also means that children are encouraged to report back to parents about their online experience.
4. This is an important lesson: Teach children how to be kind online and use the interenet appropriately as a learning tool.
5. Never click an email link if you’re not sure if sender is someone from your school, as this can cause a “phishing” attack or “ransomware” attack on your device.
What authorities say:
Authorities in the UAE have urged parents too: be mindful of your children’s digital activity. Cyberbullying carries a penalty of 6 months jail and Dh150,000 fine in the UAE.
Dh150,000fine for cyberbullying in the UAE + 6 months in jail
A bit of gaming is fine. But excess of anything in life is poison. While social media does pose some risks for children, so do mobile games too. One survey shows that over 80% of UAE residents are mobile gamers. Mobile gamers in the UAE play an average of 20 to 40 minutes of video games a day, a survey on mobile gaming habits shows. The survey made by AdColony EMEA in partnership with On Device Research, shows how the mobile gaming as an industry with a demographically diverse audience that continues to expand and grow in the region.
Here's the nerve-wracking part: Some behavioral psychologists claim that mobile gaming is the modern world’s new "opium", with its own social and health dangers. Getting hooked on games has been heightened by the pandemic-induced quarantines.
Media reports have highlighted dangerous challenge cults borne by online games or apps that encourage children to do dangerous stunts, including suicide. Blue Whale, now banned in most countries, including the UAE, is just the tip of the iceberg. However, the games that supposedly lure children to perform a series of dangerous tasks before ultimately committing suicide, are just an urban myth.
Mohammad Mustafa Saidalavi, the chief operating officer of Emirates Safer internet Society (Esafe), earlier told Gulf News: “It’s a moral panic for an issue that doesn’t exist. Yes, there are challenge cults that vulnerable children may get easily lured towards, but in terms of anyone committing suicide from these games, it’s a big no. Such reports may had been exaggerated.”
He says Blue Whale and Momo Challenge suicide games are distracting the media and society from real threats — including grooming, sexual abuse, cyber bullying and blackmail. He said all these need attention.
- Share with care
- Pictures and information you share can be easily re-shared by others
- Always remember to take great care with the personal photos you share online
- They could remain online for a very long time
Child digital safety campaign
To address online safety concerns, UAE authorities launched the “Child Digital Safety” initiative in March 2018. The campaign, joint project of the Ministry of Interior and the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing, was meant to raise awareness among children and students about online threats and challenges, and promotes a safe and constructive use of the internet.
The initiative also offered parents and educators solutions they can use to address these challenges and ensure the safety of their children and students.
Law on protection of children's data online:
Article 29 of UAE 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 the 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 (Law No. 26 of 2015) aims for data protection and privacy of all individuals, including that of children.
Hotline: Report child abuse in the UAE
You can report child abuse to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) through the hotline number 116111 or through the MoI’s Child Protection Centre's website and the 'Hemayati' (Arabic for protect me) app (available on Android and iOS).
- Al Ameen Service: 800 4888 (Within UAE). + 971 800 4888 (from outside State). @AlAmeenService. 050 856 6657.
- Community Development Authority- CDA on hotline: 800988
- EWAA Shelter for Women and Children on hotline: 8007283
- Dubai Foundation for Women and Children on 800111
- Child protection centre in Sharjah on toll-free helpline number 800 700.
- Hemaya Foundation for Children and Women - Ajman on hotline: 800himaya (800446292)
- Aman Centre for Women and Children through RAK Police – 07-2356666
- Schoolchildren can use the hotline number 80051115 to communicate directly with Ministry of Education regarding any issue that may affect their learning process. Education specialists supervise the hotline.
With a spike in cyber blackmail numbers, the Dubai Police’s Al Ameen service and the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) launched a campaign 2016 against cyber blackmail. The campaign aims to protect victims from blackmailing by chasing all criminals in all parts of the world, in addition to issuing requests to the Interpol to hunt these criminals wherever they are.
What you need to know about cyber blackmail
Causes for Cyber Blackmail
- Revealing private data
- Insecure Practices
Revealing Private Data
What cyber experts say about online threats arising from sharing private data:
- Attackers use personal data to choose their targets, like sharing the location with photos.
- Anything you share on the Internet, will not be yours anymore, like saving Snapchat videos using third-party apps.
- Don’t trust the other side, anything they say could be false -- they they could fake their identity.
- Know that some apps are loaded with cookies that allow them to do things you might not have expected.
Parents need to be aware of risks of digital technology use among their children and of the ways to curb them.
Schools have adopted policies on digital safety for their pupils. This should be adopted across the board. Students must be taught online safety as part of a broad and balanced curriculum.
A policy on safer use of technology should be part of the comprehensive guidance and advice to pupils, staff and all members of the school community.
The best place to start an online safey culture for children is at home. The solution is a combination of factors: knowing the risks, working with authorities, implementing technology solutions and having an open communication with children.
Health risks from extended phone or tablet use:
These days, children who are sometimes as young as 2 years old, are already exposed to prolonged radio frequency radiation (RFR) — through the phones or tablets. there are risks that come with prolonged RFR exposure. A study published in Frontiers in Public Health journal in 2019 cited 3 large-scale carcinogenicity research on rodents exposed to levels of radio-frequency radiation (RFR) that mimic lifetime human exposures.
What researchers found: Significantly increased rates of Schwannomas and malignant gliomas, as well as chromosomal DNA damage in the subjects. “Of particular concern are the effects of RFR exposure on the developing brain in children,” the researchers wrote. “Compared with an adult male, a cell phone held against the head of a child exposes deeper brain structures to greater radiation doses per unit volume,” it stated, adding: “and the young, thin skull's bone marrow absorbs a roughly 10-fold higher local dose.”
The researchers recommended that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) should re-evaluate its 2011 classification of the human carcinogenicity of RFR. It also recommended that WHO should complete a systematic review of multiple other health effects. “In the interim, current knowledge provides justification for governments, public health authorities, and physicians/allied health professionals to warn the population that having a cell phone next to the body is harmful, and to support measures to reduce all exposures to RFR.”