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Child Internet Safety

Child Internet Safety

Category: Online Child Protection | Published Date: 03/06/2013 | Author: Mahmoud Zahran Al Waili | Rating: Child Internet Safety (3045 Votes)


Quite infinite are currently  the opportunities offered by the world wide web (internet) to people around the world, particularly kids. Young children use the internet today for a wide variety of purposes like communication, entertainment and education. As they grow up in such a digital age where technology dominates most aspects of our lives, they get more overwhelmed by its  uniqueness, trying their best to cope with its distinctive attributes. They endeavor to develop new skills in order to survive in such an ever-changing world.

However, as is the case in any thing in life, the internet has its own dark side, to which our children are vulnerable. Various  risks and threats exist in the world of the internet which can harm our children if they are not made aware of how to surf safely and avoid the risks of the internet. Hence, in order to develop a safe online environment for our children at home as well as in their own schools, a deep analysis of the potential risks that exist in the internet is essential.

Child Internet Safty

Potential online risks

Some of the notable online risks featured in a survey of EU kids and their parents were the exposure to inappropriate content (e.g. pornographic, self-harm and violent content, and racist/hate material), unwelcome contact (e.g. grooming, sexual harassment, bullying, abuse of personal information and privacy) and, attracting growing attention, inappropriate conduct by children themselves (e.g. bullying, abuse of privacy). (Livingstone: 2011)

The survey which investigated risks and safety on the internet from the perspective of European children in 25 countries showed noteworthy findings which can be summarized in the following:

  • Parental awareness

One of the most important findings of the survey is the fact that many parents lack the necessary knowledge and skills regarding the safe use of the internet. Therefore, when attempting to make the internet a safer place for children, policy makers should think about narrowing down the gap between parents and their children in terms of safety on the internet.

  • Focus on younger users

Every day, the number of children who use the internet increases rapidly which means that authorities and agencies responsible for setting laws and regulations should start designing policies that suit young users which help to protect them.

  • Industry support for internet safety

It is important that social networking providers should provide maximum security and highest privacy level by default for children using their services. This is because children are not aware of the inconspicuous risks that exist in this world.

  • Digital citizenship

More and more children are using the internet independently of adults supervision which makes it more risky to them. They are gradually becoming virtual citizens of a totally digital world.

  • Positive content

The report shows that when it comes to children, they are the least satisfied people about the content available in the internet. Most of the children surveyed expressed their disappointment about the quality and types of online provisions that were accessible to them as children.
 

  Commercial Aggressive Sexual Values
Content(child as recipient) Adverts
Spam
Sponsorship
Personal Info
Violent/ hateful content Pornographic or unwelcome sexual content Bias
Racist
Misleading info
Contact(child as participant) Tracking
Harvesting
Personal info
Being bullied, harassed or stalked Meeting strangers
Being groomed
Self-harm
Unwelcome persuasions
Conduct(child as actor) Illegal downloading
Hacking
Gambling
Financial scams
Terrorism
Bullying or harassing another Creating and uploading inappropriate material Providing misleading info/advice

Table 1: Potential online risks to children, (Byron, 2008).


Internet safety at schools

Not only are kids susceptible to internet risks while they are at home, but even when they are in their schools. For instance, some of the key findings revealed by Children Go Online report (Livingstone & Bober, 2005) were that many children have not received lessons on how to use the internet, the skills gap that exist between parents and children, children lack key skills in evaluating online content and that beginners are more distrustful of the internet. These findings highlight the significance of promoting children’s abilities and skills of using the internet safely.



Internet safety at schools

In addition, Byron review report  (Byron, 2008) outlines several recommendations aiming at restricting access to harmful materials online, one of which is raising the level of awareness amongst children, their parents and other responsible adults. This (what do you mean by this?) can happen by addressing the generational digital divide through meeting the real needs of those involved in the care of children like parents and teachers. Also, enabling children themselves to develop skills that will help them be safe online.

Recently, the ITA (Information Technology Authority) in Oman conducted a nation-wide survey to investigate information and communication technology (ICT) indicators across the country. According to the survey (ICT Survey, 2012), around 87% to 88% of private and public schools in Oman have internet access while the percentage is even higher in Islamic and international institutions as figure 1 demonstrates. This clearly indicates that within the next few years, it is expected that almost all schools will be able to provide internet access to staff and students. Such promising statistics propose a necessity to explore the issue of safety on the internet.


Proportion of schools with internet access 2010

Figure 1 Proportion of schools with internet access, 2010 (ICT Survey, 2012)


Nevertheless, the percentage of ICT-Qualified teachers in schools, particularly public schools, is relatively remarkably low (figure 2) when compared with the number of schools with internet access. The need to provide qualified teachers is inevitable to ensure users' safety and to make sure that internet access is a useful tool for them.

Proportion of ICT-Qualified Teachers in Schools 2010

Figure 2 Proportion of ICT-Qualified Teachers in Schools, 2010. (ICT Survey, 2012)



Learners-to-Computer Ratio in Schools with Computer-Assisted Instruction 2010

Figure 3 Learners-to-Computer Ratio in Schools with Computer-Assisted Instruction, 2010. (ICT Survey, 2012)



Internet providers and the Ministry of Education in Oman are also highly advised to consider the following recommendations:

 

  • Develop critical internet evaluation skills within children from an early age
  • Narrow down the digital divide between parents and their children
  • Empower teachers and adults responsible for children with critical skills and knowledge on safety online
  • More lessons that focus on safe usage of the internet
  • Restricting harmful materials
  • Educating parents on how to confine harmful materials at home
  • Involve children at schools in developing advice and tips on how to stay safe online
  • In addition to the MOE portal, another portal for kids should be established in Oman. This portal should contain information and resources about safety on the internet as well as safe online materials and fun games.
  • More tips on how to be safe on the internet should be embedded in the IT school syllabus to ensure that children are aware of how to avoid the risks.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, although the internet can be a valuable source of materials and information for children as well as of entertainment, it poses more risks than any other media sources (Livingstone & Bober, 2005). However, this doesn’t mean that we ignore the unlimited opportunities it offers. Increasing internet literacy, online safety awareness, parents and adults skills of protecting their children and setting regulations by policy makers are key issues to ensure a knowledgeable generation of kids who can enjoy using the internet quite safely. The idea is not to try to stop children from using the internet, because this is simply not possible, but to direct them to be safe users. This can be done effectively if efforts are exerted to involve stakeholders, parents, and teachers at schools.


Parents with their children using computer


References:

  • Byron, T. (2008). Safer children in a digital world: the report of the Byron Review: be safe, be aware, have fun.
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) surveys results. (2012). [online]. Oman: Information Technology Authority, Oman. Available at: http://www.ita.gov.om/ITAPortal/MediaCenter/Document_detail.aspx?NID=66
  • Livingstone, S. & Bober, M. (2005). UK Children Go Online: final report of key project findings [online]. London: LSE Research Online. Available at: http://eprints.Ise.ac.uk/archive/00000399
  • Livingstone, Sonia and Haddon, Leslie and Görzig, Anke and Ólafsson, Kjartan (2011) Risks and safety on the internet: the perspective of European children: summary. EU Kids Online, Deliverable D4. EU Kids Online Network, London, UK.