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Awareness sessions on online safety in schools

Dubai — A series of interactive sessions on cyberbullying have been held in several schools in Dubai to raise awareness on online safety.

Global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab, in partnership with Active Education, launched the initiative aimed at children aged 8 to 13 years after studies showed that 23 per cent of parents in the UAE reported that their children’s online safety had been compromised as a result of using social media. The sessions covered key threats that make children vulnerable online and focused on teaching them how to behave safely on social media, and the general rules of online safety.

“We believe that educational and engaging performances help to address the key issues faced by young people, and we are thankful that our school is taking part in this initiative. We are sure that our pupils took something key away from the performance they saw, and that they will truly think next time they’re online,” said Alex Tate, Assistant Head of Secondary at the Horizon International School.

According to Kaspersky Lab data, 80 per cent of children in the Middle East are mostly interested in internet communication media — in the majority of cases, this is referred to as social media. Almost the same percentage goes for the children in the UAE, showing very strong social media presence of young residents of the Gulf. The second most popular online content among kids (about 7 per cent) falls under the category of ‘software, audio and video’ and mostly refers to video sharing websites. This suggests children are prone to all the threats associated with these online platforms.

“Online safety for children and raising awareness on identifying and responding to online threats is a key focus area of the UAE leadership. Through initiatives such as the newly-launched Emirates Child Protection Association, the UAE is taking a global leadership role in identifying and addressing new threats facing children, and working in partnership with global experts to mitigate these risks,” said Faisal Mohammad Al Shimmari, Emirati child protection activist.

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, showed that 10 per cent of kids have used the internet to meet dangerous people offline, eight per cent have become cyberbullying victims, seven per cent have shared too much personal information about themselves, and seven per cent have been exposed to deliberately hurtful and malicious messages from strangers through social media.To help children avoid threats related to social networks, Kaspersky Lab experts recommend “friends” should be only those who they know personally, and even then, children should not publish too much personal information online. They explained that while information could be used by attackers if they steal a friend’s account, children should also avoid opening links from unknown recipients.

“Considering the fact that the internet is not going anywhere, there has never been a more important time to truly educate children about online safety and the dangers the online world can present to them, to ensure that they can equip themselves to enjoy online experiences safely,” said Maria Namestnikova, children’s online safety expert at Kaspersky Lab.

She explained that even though parental control programmes remain a good measure of child protection online — they also do not guarantee 100 per cent safety.

Warning signs

These pointers that will help parents identify if their child is experiencing trouble on social media:
Sudden changes in mood for no apparent reason

Changing the style of use of their digital device and social networks (for example, the child begins to wake up at night to go online)

Sharp increase or decrease in the number of “friends” in their social network

Appearance of “friends” with a big age difference

Abusive images and messages on the child’s social media page

Child deletes their page on social networks

Read more: http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/society/awareness-sessions-on-online-safety-in-schools-1.2127770