UAE: 5 tips to protect your child online

Expert explains why it is important to monitor children's activities on the Internet


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Thu 16 Feb 2023, 11:41 AM

Last updated: Thu 16 Feb 2023, 2:04 PM

As technology continues to advance, the Internet has become an integral part of our lives. It is a powerful tool that provides access to information, resources, and communication channels, says Candid Wuest, VP of Cyber Protection Research, Acronis.

The tech expert points out however, that with this great power comes potential risks and harmful online activities, particularly for children - who are often the most vulnerable.

“Criminals can take advantage of the anonymity provided by the Internet, and it's essential to teach children about Internet safety to help them protect their privacy and stay safe online,” Wuest told Khaleej Times.

“By educating them about internet safety tips and encouraging them to practice good cyber hygiene, children can become empowered to navigate the online world responsibly and with confidence.”

Here are some tips provided by Wuest for protecting your child and your finances online:

1. Monitor your child’s online activities

It is important to be aware of your child's activities on the Internet, especially when it comes to who their online friends are. Online gaming has become a popular pastime for children, with games like PUBG and Minecraft allowing them to connect and play with players from all over the world. While this provides a great opportunity for children to socialise, it also exposes them to potential dangers from online predators.

To mitigate this risk, parents should monitor their children's online gaming habits, especially who they are interacting with. A study by Mobily eSports in the UAE revealed that a third of parents in the country are unaware of whom their kids talk to online. To combat this, parents should also make sure that chat options, both text and voice, are turned off for anyone the child does not personally know. Encourage your child to use the "block" feature if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.

2. Prevent in-app purchases

Children can accidentally make in-app purchases while playing games, which can quickly add up. Mobile games often make it easy for children to purchase in-game currencies or cosmetics through a process known as 'micro-transaction'.

To prevent this, parents should secure payment methods with a password, PIN, or fingerprint, or block payments entirely on apps their children may use. In the UAE, a study by AdColony found that 62 per cent of gamers regularly spend money on mobile games. The sample size of this survey included 28 per cent of people between the ages of 14 and 29.

3. Protect your child’s data, help them understand what privacy is

Data privacy has become a growing concern, with major data breaches being reported in the news cycle. The United Nations reports that over 80 per cent of children have a digital footprint before the age of two, raising concerns about the information that parents are sharing about their children.

Children are still learning about what information is appropriate to share online and what is private. Parents should teach their children that some information, such as their address or full name, should never be shared online except on websites approved and used by their school. Additionally, they should ensure that their children's online profiles are set to private so that they can only be seen by approved viewers.

When posting about their children on social media, parents should be mindful of who can see the information and what their intentions may be.

4. Review account settings

Besides setting your child's account to private, most social media networks allow you to control certain features and privacy settings. This lets you make informed decisions on how they interact on the platform. For example, you can usually turn off direct messaging or set daily time limits for app usage on your device.

A survey by WhichSchool Advisor found that 71.4 per cent of parents agree that their child can get social media access after they turn 15. While it is important to keep your child up-to-date with recent technology, it could potentially expose sensitive information if proper privacy settings are not in place - highlighting the importance of education.

5. Encourage open communication with your little one

While monitoring your child's online activities can help minimise risks, it is important to educate them on how to stay safe and private while using the internet. The internet is vast and cyber threats are constantly evolving, making it impossible to anticipate all risks. The most important step is to maintain open and honest communication with your kids. Let them know that they can approach you with any concerns or experiences they have online without fear of negative consequences. Also, be there for them if they face cyberbullying, which affects more than half of all connected children.

According to Wuest, in light of the growing popularity of remote work and online learning due to the pandemic, online safety measures are now more crucial than ever. “Cybercriminals are increasingly finding soft targets to attack and have access to money and sensitive information. Using a combination of sophisticated tactics, unsuspecting children may easily become prey. However, with a unified approach to cyber protection, it is possible to navigate the web safely with the right knowledge and tools,” he said.


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