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.
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:
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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