The use of the Internet has become unavoidable, making it imperative to raise awareness about its dangers, especially for children who have a broad audience through social media platforms and the Internet in general
For a safe Internet, the Sultanate of Oman joined the global community to observe Safer Internet Day, which falls on the first Tuesday of February every year. The day reminds Internet users to be safe while using the Internet and become responsible digital citizens.
It is necessary to raise the level of awareness of the dangers of the Internet, the importance of preserving privacy, and warning against misuse and its legal consequences, in addition to developing ethical and behavioural standards and systems when using the Internet.
The number of Internet users in the Sultanate of Oman increased by about 104,000 users between 2021 and 2022, reaching 5.2 million users.
Since children are a wide audience through social media platforms, the average age of the users came down from 18 years to 12 years of age. The risk is greater because childhood, pre-mental maturity and adolescence are the most dangerous stages for a person.
Our children are born with a desire to explore, love and aspire to use electronic devices from an early age. As soon as a child grows and joins the school, he requires the Internet for research and school study purposes.
The European Commission says one out of every three Internet users is a child or about 33 per cent of Internet users in the world are children, and these children are accessing the Internet at a younger age than ever before through a variety of devices. They spend more and more time online, browsing social media, playing games and using mobile apps, often without adult supervision.
In this context, more attention must be paid to children while they use the Internet. Leaving children unattended for Internet use makes them vulnerable to exploitation by cyber criminals. Electronic bullying, electronic blackmail and some electronic games are great threats targeting children and may eventually lead them to psychiatric clinics or suicide if they are not directed properly.
The child may also be exposed to scenes of violence, ethnic and sectarian intolerance, inappropriate content or prohibited things that may lead to future problems.
Awareness of the safe use of the Internet is important. Among the things that we must remind our children are: Not disclosing any personal information to others on social networking sites is important and contributes to making the Internet a safe environment, and we must remind them not to publish any pictures or clips except after consulting parents as some digital media are classified as unsuitable for children, and it is also important not to respond to any invitation to meet friends from the virtual world except after the parents’ knowledge and approval and to ensure that the virtual friend is suitable for friendship in the real world.
Some families are exposed to security breaches due to children downloading programmes with undocumented or open links, so children must be assured not to download any programmes or games from undocumented sources. It is also necessary to check the accounts of children on social networking sites and what is published on these platforms. It is worth noting that most social networking sites do not grant membership to children without parental consent to protect them from the dangers spread on social networking sites.
To protect your child’s safety, boundaries must be drawn by setting appropriate security privileges for your child. It’s recommended to activate the parental control feature on children’s devices.
Secondly, advise children to avoid opening any unknown files or applications.
Third, parental friendship by showing interest in the games your child plays, sharing them with him, accuracy in checking the classification of games before purchasing them and choosing the most appropriate for your child’s age. Fourthly, trusted applications download original applications from their official websites and trusted sources. Finally, raise awareness among children by teaching them correct behaviours and the truth about what they may encounter on the Internet.
For a safer Internet, most web search engines have a “Safe Search” function that allows parents to limit the content their children can access while online. This is usually in the “Settings” icon on your web browser’s homepage. Use secure privacy settings on apps and online games.