With the current increase in the use of the Internet among everyone, including children, online predators seem be increasingly targeting youngsters through social media. These cyber criminals bully, blackmail, sexually harass, and threaten children.
Officers at Abu Dhabi Police have reiterated the need for parents to take good care of children, including protecting them from dangers of cybercriminals because the youngsters spend a lot of time online.
During a lecture titled: “Protecting our children...a social responsibility”, which was part of police’s Ramadan councils, Major Ghaida Ali Abdullah from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) stressed the importance of protecting children in the virtual world from the dangers of fraudsters and scammers via the Internet. “This should be done through teaching the children how to protect themselves while online, the Dos and Don’ts, safeguarding their online accounts from hacking, setting a different secret code for each account, and not downloading any files without scanning them from viruses,” he said.
Capt. Yaqoub Yousef Al Hammadi, also from CID, spoke about methods of protecting children from the dangers of the Internet, including the use of parental control monitoring programs by families on the kids’ devices to protect their children against online predators.
He noted that there are parental control tools that work on different devices and smart phones, through which control rules are set for children and they can contribute to guidance during learning, playing and browsing the Internet.
According to authorities, much as the Internet can be a dangerous neighbourhood for everyone, children and teens are especially vulnerable to cyber predators to social media posts that can come back to haunt them later in life.
Many children have Snapchat, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger installed on their phones, but many parents don’t even know what those apps are.
Egyptian father, Ramadan Mohammed says though his son and daughter attending grades 9 and 10 have never reported to him cases of online threat or cyberbullying, he always monitors what they do online and teaches them the Dos and Don’t’s of being online.
“I always tell my children about the dangers of online criminals and never to chat with strangers while on social media,” he said.
Cyber security awareness, online safety part of Abu Dhabi schools’ curriculum
Allison McDonald, Principal of Al Basma British School, Al Bahya in Abu Dhabi says online safety is part of the school’ curriculum and is taught specifically in the computing curriculum.
“There is a further focus within 'Bullying week' and a focus on e-safety. These are always scheduled towards the start of the school year so that students are made aware early on. This then allows us as a school to have reminders and reviews through the year,” she said.
“We further have workshops for parents to be involved and active so that they too can be made aware of the risks, and be enabled to make informed choices.”
McDonald says her school subscribes to the National Online Safety platform from National Education Group, UK, which is dedicated to producing content and resources for teachers, parents and students.
“These resources are colourful and easy to read and digest and remind readers of important features like age-appropriate gaming, viewing extra,” she said.
Neeraj Bhargava, Principal of Abu Dhabi Indian School says cyber attackers present a huge risk to the moral values of students and ultimately effects the stability of society.
“What children are doing online has more bearing on their well being than how much time they spend online. It also includes hateful, harmful, or illegal content as well as disinformation,” he said.
“Often children’s own conduct which can make them vulnerable, i.e. in the case of sexting or cyberbullying.”
Bhargava says at his school, students are guided for the online screen time where an average screen time for students between eight and 12 years should not exceed five hours a day and must not exceed 10 hours for High school students.
“At Abu Dhabi Indian School, we ensure that cybersecurity awareness is a necessary life skill, webinars and assemblies are conducted on regular intervals to equip children against online risks. To overcome the health and moral challenges, well being sessions are conducted during homeroom period,” said the school principal.
He added that during online sessions, parents were guided to block explicit or disturbing content and apps on students’ devices.
Anna Pagdiwalla, principal Mayoor School Abu Dhabi said: “Since we are laptop school, we do regular awareness sessions with students. We do train our children on online safety cyber bullying fishing emails et cetera.”
People have been told to report online criminals to Aman service- a security communication channel that receives information on (security, community, and traffic) and operates around the clock through the toll-free number 8002626 (AMAN2626) or by text messages (2828) or via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through the smart application of the Abu Dhabi Police General Command.