Ministry warns parents of ‘dangerous’ apps

Most parents in the UAE are not aware of their children’s activities online, thus exposing them to potential danger, a report in 999 magazine run by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) has warned.
The magazine spoke to parents, media managers and Internet giants and found that children in the UAE are online on an average of two to six hours per day, which increases the chance of them accessing inappropriate content or being contacted by cyber criminals.
The cover story of the magazine details the risks of the hidden world of “dangerous apps”.
Most children aged over 10 in the UAE, the report said, have at least one smart device, and on this they can download applications that allow them to chat with strangers, who could potentially be sexual predators.
These apps allow them to send photographs, which could be used by criminals to blackmail them. Some apps can even hide age-inappropriate apps from the device. Social media apps also promote anonymity, which allows children to bypass parental supervision.
Lt.-Col Awadh Saleh Al Kindi, Editor-in-Chief of 999, said: “Social media apps enable unmonitored access to content that can be potentially dangerous for children. While the UAE strives to protect citizens and residents from cyber pitfalls, parents must also take an active role in the battle for digital safety.
Parents must be aware of what their children are doing online and advise them not to engage with strangers, even those who claim to be children themselves.”
Survey pointers
A study by Common Sense Media, a US-based non-profit organisation, estimates that children today spend over 60 hours of screen time every week on their smart devices.
A 2013 Pew Research Centre survey found that nearly 40 per cent of teens say they have lied about their age to gain access to a site or create an account.
Further, a study by child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron — commissioned by the UK government to investigate the risks posed to children by exposure to the Internet and video games — found there was a “generational digital divide, which means parents do not necessarily feel equipped to help their children in this space”.
The speed with which the industry evolves makes it hard to keep track of possible perils; new apps, social media platforms and games become popular with pre-teens and teenagers before parents even know they exist.
Additionally, according to The Social Age study by knowthenet.org.uk, released earlier this year, around 59 per cent of children have used a social media network by the time they are 10 (despite them being age-restricted), and 43 per cent have messaged strangers online by the time they are 12. 

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