Children need more digital protection, says top Ministry official

Energy Monday 11/December/2017 11:56 AM
By: Times News Service
Children need more digital protection, says top Ministry official

Muscat: Children need to be protected from the dangers of the internet, so that they can harness all of its benefits for personal growth and development, said a top official of Oman’s Ministry of Social Development.

“It is important for children to benefit from the technology revolution, but societies need to provide the necessary protection systems and rationalize their use to avoid health, moral, psychological and social effects on children,” said Dr Yahya Al-Mawali, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Development, who added that Oman was taking steps to ensure children could access a safer web.

“Through the promulgation of the Child’s Law and its commitment to the Convention of the Rights of the Child as well as the adoption of the Social Action Strategy (2015-2025), which is one of the most important themes for the protection of the child, the Sultanate of Oman had made sure to provide children with health, education, welfare and social services which would ensure an adequate and safe environment for them to grow in,” he added. “This has been achieved under the wise leadership of His Majesty the Sultan and the governments’ plans to protect children for a bright future for the country.”

Al Mawali was speaking on the occasion of the release of UNICEF’s annual report on the dangers youth face online, titled The State of the World’s Children 2017 – Children in a Digital World.

The report explores the benefits digital technology can offer disadvantaged children, including those growing up in poverty or affected by humanitarian emergencies. These include increasing their access to information, building skills for the digital workplace, and giving them a platform to connect and communicate their views, amplifying their voices and making their stories known.

It presents current data and analysis about children’s online usage and the impact of digital technology on children’s wellbeing, exploring growing debates about digital “addiction” and the possible effect of screen time on brain development. It also examines how the internet increases children’s vulnerability to risks and harms, including misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyberbullying.

Lana Al Wreikat, UNICEF’s representative to Oman, also stressed the need for young people to have a safe online world to explore.

“Young people are exposed to all kinds of risks in their daily lives and internet addiction is among them, not to mention its effect on their health because of the inappropriate habits it may produce,” she said. “While reporting on this lifestyle related issue in Oman requires more data, according to the Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Oman published in collaboration with the National Centre for Statistics and Information in 2017, a study on Omani adolescents from high schools in Muscat found that 18 per cent of respondents used the internet for more than 4 hours daily.”

Globally, one in three internet users is a child, but with cyberbullying, online embezzlement and stalking activities readily carried out online, more needs to be done to help children from falling victim to unscrupulous people on the web.

Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director added: “This report includes the perspectives of children and young people on the impact of digital technology in their lives – telling their own stories about the issues that most affect them.

“Their voices matter ever more – and are louder than ever before – in a digital world,” he said. “A world they are not only inheriting, but helping to shape. By protecting children from the worst digital technology has to offer, and expanding their access to the best, we can tip the balance for the better.”