Befriend Them, Alienate Not

Be a friend to your kids, let your shoulders be their resting place in times of need, and allow them share their secrets with you and what’s bothering them in their day to day life because that is the only way to you can help them survive in the virtual world of modern times of any issue, cyber experts opine.

Raqiya al Tobi, Team Leader, Cyber Readiness, COP

As many as 35 children were involved in cyber security crimes in Oman just in a period of six months from January 1 to June 30 this year, according to the Oman Computer Emergency Readiness Team (OCERT) at the Information Technology Authority (ITA). From January to July, there were 27 extortion incidents, 3 fraud cases and 5 hacked accounts.
And more shockingly indeed, children between 13 to 16 years are said to be the victims of the cyber crimes during the period. In 2018, the number of crimes stood at 22.
“Make your children, your friends and not alienate them. They should find a perfect confidante in you that make them share their day to day life details with you”, says Raqiya al Tobi, Team Leader — Cyber Security Alliances and Cooperation at the Oman National CERT.
Both girls and boys are equally subject to cyber blackmailing, cyberbullying, fraud and revenge. All these are predominantly the basic reasons behind a number of cyber offences, according to Raqiya.
“Another reason is what you call ‘Pop culture’ where one is attracted to others’ cultures without knowing one’s own roots or hierarchy. Secondly, both girls and boys are extremely in need of followers online that make them add as many number of friends as possible and it’s a modern way to show off in front of their peers to flaunt that I have more friends and followers and the like… And this has become a motivation for kids to add friends on cyber world”, she says.
“Parents are, basically, not aware of what’s going on and online with their children and this means he or she is exposed to millions of people, and beware, someone with fake IDs will chat with the kids, ask him or her to send pics followed by blackmailing.
“We learned online features and it was a task for us, whereas these small children are experts born in the cyber world” she adds. Any altercation, emotional or physical countering with kids will lead to quarrels inside the house which may lead to unpleasant experiences.
“Gone are the days when parents can keep a superior power on their children. Today, one needs to be friendly with their kids to keep track of their behaviour. This is relevant because bahavioural changes can indicate so many things about their personality change,” adds Raqiya.
With the children’s safety and security in mind, the Oman National CERT, in 2009, began what is called ‘Child Oman Protection’ (COP) targeting children, parents, and society in general through various mediums, campaigns, awareness etc on Internet seeking ways on how we can protect our children and COP has been a part of the festivals and other gatherings of parents and children alike.
“We have been working very closely with Women’s Associations and Ministry of Education on cyber security on how to protect our children through subjects in their curriculum and IT subjects and the like”, says Raqiya.
It’s all about awareness for parents, children, and teachers. We are trying to get the digital gap between the parents and children bridged.

It’s never too late:
1) From the home front, parents should be aware of the technology, the dangers of using them and try to be friendly with kids as we cannot isolate them from the technology
2) Use monitoring technology to watch them where they visit
3) Set a time for the usage of technical gizmos and make it an order of the house. All should follow the rule
4) Block the websites which you think are not good for the kids
5) Set parental control on the social media platforms
6) Update yourself with the technology, speak to their teachers and friends more often
7) Provide cyber security awareness as early as possible in their life
8) When they remain within closed doors for some reason, be watchful and alert. Fake IDs are born out of many reasons such as fear of parents, and to keep their identity hidden