Dubai: Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah (SCFA), has called on social and academic institutions to adopt rigorous scientific standards when raising awareness among families, children and youth on cybersecurity. She said that children should be educated on ways to overcome the myriad challenges of rapid technological advancements.
Protect child and youth
Shaikha Jawaher indicated that the latest report from the Child Safety Department (CSD), an affiliate of SCFA, has 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.
Shaikha 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 directives and support.
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.
Sounding caution on cyber pitfalls
Shaikha Jawaher encouraged all stakeholders to be mindful of the findings of the report. She said, “We expect every stakeholder in our community to review the findings of CSD’s study and incorporate these into their strategies and programmes that target families, children and youth. As with all research studies, we also expect to receive contributions from specialised academic entities to further develop and review its results. More studies must be conducted to expand our knowledge on children’s and youth’s safety, for their safety is the safety of the nation, and their security is the security of our future,” Her Highness said emphasising the importance of such studies and the need to develop them further.
Responsible use of digital tools
Shaikha Jawaher pointed out that while digital communication was indispensable it was important to derive benefits without falling prey to cyber security issues. She 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.”
Derive benefits without victimisation
“We want everyone to benefit from studies on cyber safety and adopt their findings into daily practices and targeted programmes. Parents must also encourage open communication among family members, and be active listeners, in addition to being attentive to any psychological or behavioural changes that may arise in children and adolescents,” she added.