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Cyberawarness Article in Gulf News - By Abin Ajayakumar, Executive Director

Easy access to information: Boon or bane?

Dubai: Today’s youths, although well versed in digital technology, are sometimes ignorant of the implications of their actions. This is where you as parents play a pivotal role; even if you are not up to speed with the latest bit of tech. Listed below are a few simple steps to help ensure safe internet surfing for your children:

1. Encourage balanced use of media. The time youths spend web surfing or social networking must be equal or proportional to other activities like family time, sports, or real time socialising. A balanced rationale should be the general rule of thumb.

2. Monitor their media use. Although not easy to do, as parents discuss your childrens internet activities in an open and friendly way. Also try to encourage them to use the internet and social media in a communal area of the home i.e. the living room.

3. Discuss appropriate websites. Bring up the topic of appropriate/inappropriate websites. Address things like appropriate viewing for their age before they find out on their own. Uninformed young children could fall prey to cyber bullies or sexual predators.

4. Teach them the three W questions - who, when and what. Generally these three questions are what youths should ask themselves when visiting websites. For example, who created the website – is it an educational website (.edu) or a commercial organisation (.com) or a non-profit organisation (.org). When was the information last updated on the website? What kind of useful information is available on the website?

5. Make them aware of identity protection. The online profiles and digital identities youths create could come back to haunt them in the future. Nothing is deleted on the internet and they should therefore think before they post. A useful way is to have them ask themselves the following: Why am I creating this? Who is my audience? How much should I reveal? Who might see this? What am I saying about myself?

6. Establish ground rules on what can be put online. Youths need advice on what is appropriate online material. As kids are immature, they do not know who is watching the information they post and how it will be used by the virtual community.

7.It is mainly due to ignorance that people leave their digital footprint accessible to others without even noticing it. Kids especially have to know this and be extra cautious while using the internet. So it is of paramount importance that children are taught to think critically about the opportunities and challenges of the digital world. This will help them independently make safe decisions online.

8.Abin Ajayakumar is the executive director of Cambridge Education, a Dubai based company that provides training areas such as IT and IT security.

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