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Inappropriate content


Online, children can be exposed to material that is inappropriate or even harmful for them. This could be material that is sexually explicit or offensive or violent. It may also be content that is racist and encourages hatred towards particular groups, or material that encourages unsafe behaviour such as eating disorders. Material that is considered inappropriate can vary depending on family and cultural standards or values.

  • How do children access inappropriate content?

    Children and young people may not deliberately seek out inappropriate content. They may be inadvertently exposed to such content through otherwise innocuous activities, such as:

    1. unexpected results from online searches
    2. clicking on unknown links within websites or emails
    3. incorrectly typing a web address or clicking on a pop-up ad
    4. Clicking on online game content or prize offers.

    In some cases children and young people deliberately access inappropriate material, particularly as they move into adolescence. This can be out of curiosity or to share with peers for the ‘shock value’ of the content.

  • What is prohibited online content?

    Some content that is considered inappropriate may also be prohibited or illegal in the UAE.

    Even though there is a national filter which does a good job of filtering prohibited content it is possible for some of this content to get through. Be sure to check out the UAE laws to understand what kinds of content and behaviour are illegal in the UAE.

    In terms of children it is important for parents to try and limit the child’s exposure to inappropriate content. A good way to do this is through the use of internet filters.

    PC Filters, labels and safe zones enable parents to reduce children’s risk of exposure to unsuitable or illegal sites and to set time limits for internet access. When deciding which tools are the most appropriate for your family, it may be useful to consider the level of guidance needed from you and balance this against your children’s ages and the range of content they may need to access.

    PC filters are computer software programs on your computer which offer a range of different functions to block, screen or monitor inappropriate content. Many filters can also be customised to suit the internet activities of each user. Common features of PC filters include:

    1. category blocking which enables the user to select from a range of content categories (for example pornography, violence) and decide which to block and which to allow time controls which allow users to limit internet access to certain times of the day, including the amount of time a child spends on the internet. This can help ensure children can only use the internet when parents are available to supervise and can restrict late night use which is tempting for some teens
    2. logging which enables parents to track and record a history of sites visited by their child service blocking which allows users to block or filter access to certain services, such as peer-to-peer, social networking or online games.

    Internet filters are no substitute for parental guidance and supervision. No filtering tool can block all unsuitable material. As the internet is vast and constantly changing, lists of blocked sites must be continuously updated for the filter to work effectively. Even then, some undesirable sites may still slip through the filter.

    Labelling tools attach descriptive tags to websites. Most browsers can read these labels and be programmed to block access to these sites or advise when sites are unsuitable for children. Labelling tools can also complement filtering tools.

    Websites can be labelled according to how suitable they are for children or to identify the sort of material that they contain, for example, medium-level sexual activity.

    These tools, together with a web browser, enable users to set levels of access for labelled sites, blocking access to anything above those levels. Some browsers also allow users to restrict access to unlabelled sites.

    While labelling tools are useful, most websites are still unlabelled.

    Safe zones are secure networks offering access to a range of sites specially designed for children and therefore with little risk of exposure to inappropriate content. Many safe zones are free of charge but some are subscription based, requiring a special login and password as they are protected from other areas on the internet.

    The following general tips will help parents manage the risks inappropriate content for young children, older children and teenagers.

    Young children

    Young children may come across offensive or illegal online content by accident or with encouragement of others, including older siblings.

    The following tips can help you to guide young children in their online activities.

    1. At this age children’s internet use should be closely monitored. To help with this try to keep the computer in a shared or visible place in the home.
    2. Be aware of how your child uses the internet and explore it with them. Bookmark a list of ‘Favourites’ you are comfortable with your child visiting and teach them how to access this list.
    3. Teach your child that not everything on the computer is safe to click on. It can be useful to make a rule for young children to check with an adult before clicking on new or unknown things.
    4. Teach your child that there are ways they can deal with material that worries or frightens them—they should not respond if they receive something inappropriate, and should immediately tell a trusted adult if they feel uncomfortable.
    5. Teach your child how to close a web page or turn off a monitor and call a trusted adult if they are worried about what they see.
    6. If your child is exposed to inappropriate content and appears distressed talk with them about it. If necessary seek professional support.
    7. Consider using filters, labels and safe zones to help manage your child’s online access.

    Older children

    Older children may come across offensive online content by accident or they may seek it out with encouragement from peers. The following tips can help older children to manage online content.

    1. At this age children’s internet use should still be closely monitored. To help with this try to keep the computer in a shared or visible place in the home.
    2. Be aware of how your child uses the internet and explore it with them. Explore their favourite sites and help them bookmark a list of ‘Favourites’. Discuss the type of content that is and isn’t okay online including violent or rude content. This will depend on your family standards.
    3. Teach your child that there are ways they can deal with disturbing material—they should not respond if they receive something inappropriate, and they should tell a trusted adult if they feel uncomfortable or worried.
    4. Reassure your child that you will not deny them access to the internet if they report feeling uncomfortable or unsafe when online. This is a very real concern for children that may stop them from communicating with you openly.
    5. Teach your child how to close web pages that they don’t like or to turn off the monitor and call a trusted adult.
    6. If your child is exposed to inappropriate content and appears distressed talk with them about it. If necessary seek professional support.
    7. Consider using filters, labels and safe zones to help manage your child’s online access.

    Teenagers

    Teenagers may see come across offensive online content by accident or they may seek it out.

    The following tips will help teens manage the content they access online.

    1. Be mindful that some websites encourage harmful or illegal behaviours such as eating disorders and violent acts. Consider your teen’s vulnerability to information and check what they are viewing online.
    2. Try to have the computer in a shared or visible place in the home, particularly if your teen is vulnerable; for example, has a mental health issue or behavioural issue.
    3. Teach your teens that there are ways they can deal with disturbing material—they should not respond if they receive something inappropriate, and tell a trusted adult if they feel uncomfortable or concerned about themselves or a friend.
    4. Reassure teens that you will not deny them access to the internet if they report feeling uncomfortable or unsafe when online. This is a very real concern for teens that may stop them from communicating with you openly.
    5. Encourage your teen to look out for friends. If they know a friend is accessing content that seems to be impacting on them negatively encourage them to share their concern with their friend and report it to a trusted adult anonymously if necessary.
    6. If your teen is exposed to inappropriate content and appears distressed talk with them about it. If necessary seek professional support.
    7. Your child’s school may also be able to provide assistance or guidance.
    8. Consider using filters, labels and safe zones to help manage your teen’s online access.

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