Understand Internet Safety

For today’s children, the digital world and the ‘real world’ are the same thing – their lives move from one to the other and back without stopping. As Digital Parents, it is important that in the same way that we help our children to stay safe in the physical world, we also help them to learn to be safe in the digital world.

 

Learning from and with our digital children

As Digital Parents we must recognise that, although we might prefer things to be different, our children often know more about the digital world than we do. This is particularly true of our teenagers who have grown up in a connected world. However, that does not mean that we have nothing to offer. Just as we have wisdom from experience in other parts of life, we can guide them safely in the digital world as well.

Before we are able to help our children and young people stay safe online, we need to learn about the things that they are doing in the digital world. Each child is different and, just as any parent shows interest in their children’s hobbies, friends and what’s happening at school, Digital Parents need to understand what their children do on the internet, their mobile phone and other digital devices.

 

The AmanTECH parents’ guide…

If you look at the menu on the top of the page, you will see that there are different pages dealing in detail with subjects like:

Cyberbullying  

Sharing media safely 

Social networking 

Limits and boundaries

 

Use the menu to navigate through the other pages in the AmanTECH website. For the rest of this section, however, we will look at two important subjects not covered in detail elsewhere.

Appropriate and inappropriate content

Content means text, pictures, videos and anything else that can be found on the web. It could be news or entertainment, however it could also be misleading, inappropriate and even harmful.

What do we mean by inappropriate content?

Just as you might not want your child to watch a particular TV program or film or read a certain magazine because it’s meant for adults, you might be concerned about things they could see on the internet, their smartphone or a games console.

This might include violent images and games, websites advertising gambling or pornography, or social networks containing anything from bad language to encouragement of reckless and illegal behaviour such as vandalism or substance abuse.

The content in question might not be illegal but it could be upsetting, disturbing or just generally unsuitable for your son or daughter to see.

Misleading content

In 2014, the number of websites in the world passed one billion. That’s a lot of information! Unfortunately, just because someone has set up a website it doesn’t mean that everything on it is true.

Although TV remains Qatar’s most popular way of finding out the news, according to the 2014 Arab Youth Survey, young people in the Middle East increasingly see the internet as a trustworthy source for news.

It is very important that young people (and adults) do not take everything they read on the internet at face value. Failing to assess the quality and accuracy of the information they contain can lead to problems from poor school assignments to serious dangers.

Getting the facts right…

If your child is researching a school project, for example, their teacher might suggest useful factual websites. A young person might also search for other sites themselves. This is not a problem; however, they may not understand that common sites like Wikipedia are based on user-generated content. In other words, other internet users have uploaded the information. While many articles are well written, some contain mistakes, personal opinions and deliberate misinformation.

Serious health and safety concerns…

It is becoming more and more common for young people to look to the internet to help them answer personal questions and understand their own heath and wellbeing. For example, mental health problems such as depression and eating disorders are a problem for many students. Whilst many support organizations have excellent websites, there is also a great deal of misleading information to be avoided.

So, what can Digital Parents do to help their children stay safe online?

In normal life it is fairly easy to control what our children watch on TV or who they spend time with; in the digital world these things are harder to manage. One of the keys is that our children feel they are able to discuss the things they do and see online.

Your son or daughter might be worried they’ll get into trouble if they tell you that something that has upset or disturbed them online, so make internet safety part of your everyday conversations. Make sure they know they can talk to you at any time and explain that you won’t automatically take their internet access, mobile or games console away.

To help protect our children from inappropriate and illegal content, tools like parental controls on computers, games consoles and smartphones can be effective, but they are not a substitute for parental supervision.

Take time to explore the internet with your child. Look at the websites, games and apps that they are using with them. If you are unhappy with anything, then discuss with them the reasons and work with them to find safe and appropriate alternatives. There are lots of helpful websites like the Qatar National Library that recommend website for children. 

If you’re worried that something your child has seen is not just inappropriate but could be illegal, report it to your internet, mobile or games provider (go to the ‘Help’ or ‘Safety’ areas on their website to find out how).

If you want to find out more details about the different parts of the digital world and what safety tools are available, click here