How Can Parents & Teachers Help Children to Stay Safe Online?
(Muhammad Farooq, Islamabad)
Islam is a complete code of life, its guidelines are beneficial not only for Muslims but for the whole mankind. Islam has declared modesty as a part of faith and strictly discourages nudity and immorality. Technology continues to infiltrate more parts of our lives. It is important to highlight that many of the 83 million internet users in Pakistan are young people who can fall prey to harmful online content – which may lead to social/immoral issues and even involvement in serious crimes at later stage.
It starts with searching for indecent/immoral online content and may lead to the young person committing unlawful acts and indulging in heinous cybercrimes. The number of such youngsters are increasing day by day and if not controlled, it may have devastating impact on our society at large.
In this technological era, we cannot deprive young people & children from using internet/social media however, we can certainly guide them about the risks associated with online activities. Online risks vary by age, gender and country to country. However, searching/viewing sexual content may be the most dangerous online hazard being faced by our youngsters which can incite them to other immoral crimes. To mitigate the risk, parents need to communicate and discuss with their children about such online content. They must also talk to them about cyberbullying, predators, inappropriate online content and associated legal consequences. For deterrence, youngsters must be made aware about prevailing internet laws of Pakistan which includes Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and (ii) Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rule 2021 to avoid initiation of penal consequences.
Some guidelines designed for parents/guardians to minimize online risks for their children have been summarized and listed below:
• Always spare time for your kids. Treat your childlike a friend and always keep communication channels open so that they may freely share any threat being faced over internet/social media.
• Always convey potential online hazards to your children and how to avoid associated risks for example: do not interact with strangers, don’t disclose personal information to any one, don’t allow strangers into your group/page, don’t follow their instructions etc.
• Use parental control software to set controls over IT devices as per age requirement like set watch time, allow only appropriate applications, access to history etc. A list of parental control software is also available on PTA website (on home page under “quick link”) or directly download from: (https://pta.gov.pk/assets/media/internet_parental_control_software_list_13032020.pdf).
• Try to always place the computer in an open space so you can keep an eye on their online activities.
• Encourage and provide opportunity for physical activities to your kids instead of merely letting them play online video games especially games which have violent imagery. Excessive use of such games may have a negative impact on kids’ personality and health, when kids have greater exposure to violence they may imitate the violence they see and show aggressive behavior while interacting with others kids of same age group.
Additionally, users can report prohibited content to concerned Social Media Platform(s) or to PTA so as to ensure its quick removal to mitigate associated risks especially in defamation cases. PTA has devised a user friendly Complaint Management System (CMS) for instant lodging of complaint at https://complaint.pta.gov.pk/registercomplaint.aspx or install PTA CMS mobile app (available on Android & iOS. Users can also email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or file a complaint on Prime Minister Citizen’s Portal (PM Portal).
With meaningful discussions and mutual coordinated efforts, we can prevent our children from online risks and help them navigate the online space in a secure way.