Officials from the MoI discuss in a workshop he issues pertaining to the children’s protection from online exploitations. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Protection of children from online exploitation is a shared responsibility of all in society, the Ministry of Interior told Gulf News.

The digital era has brought with it a number of risks facing children on a daily basis not only in the UAE but all over the world.

Cyberbullying, exposure to sexual content and oversharing of personal information are major threats to children, said a ministry spokesperson.

To combat the scourge, the Ministry of Interior has been actively campaigning against online risks for several years and on Monday it will hold the country’s first “Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities: Child Dignity in the Digital World forum in Abu Dhabi” where scholars will explore more pertinent ways of children’s safety online.

A poster on bullying launched by the Ministry of Interior as part of its community awareness programmes. Image Credit: Supplied

“Child protection stakeholders play a key role in maintaining the safety of children, because achieving justice and protection for children is a shared responsibility,” the spokesperson said.

The Child Protection Centre (CPC) of the ministry aims to raise community awareness, educate children, parents, nurses, social workers and teachers through seminars, courses and media campaigns about the various forms of child abuse, ways to prevent it and how to report it, the official said. Almost one billon children and youth use the internet in the world and around one in eight have been bullied on social media last year.

71%

of youth aged 15 to 24 are connected to the internet globally

“Children are the most vulnerable group of people facing the risks of the internet, calling for an urgent need to act now. Social media platforms also contributed to child abuse and exploitation online, with almost one billon children and youth using the internet and around one in eight having been bullied on social media last year,” the official said.

“Our job is to ensure we can mitigate the harms and dangers to make sure our children are educated to prevent further risk of harm and they are protected by legislation and policy. With countless cyber-predators out there, who no longer need to leave their homes to track down children, it is truly vital we gather and brainstorm on new and innovative ways in which we can create a robust line of defence for our precious youth.

“The digital technology continues to transform the world we live in, and with an increasing number of children going online globally, childhoods are drastically changing.”

Citing a Unicef report, the ministry said, “Youth aged 15 to 24 are the most connected age group in the world, at 71 per cent compared to 48 per cent of the total population.”

The report also stated that children and adolescents under 18, also account for an estimated one in three internet users around the world, and evidence indicates that children are accessing the internet at increasingly younger ages. In some countries, children under 15 are as likely to use the internet as adults over 25.

The official asserted that the internet is a platform that can provide a wealth of information for youth, but it can also prove to be an extremely dangerous playground.

The UAE has come a long way in the field of child protection, beginning with the Ministry of Interior establishing the Higher Committee for Child Protection in 2009, followed by the Child Protection Centre (CPC) in 2011. It also passed a comprehensive Child Rights law in 2016, known as Wadeema Law.