Jawaher Al Qasimi: Aware societies offer fertile grounds for raising generations deeply rooted in their communities

Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah (SCFA), has called on social and academic institutions to adopt rigorous scientific standards when raising awareness amongst families, children and youth on cybersecurity and educating them on ways to overcome the myriad challenges of rapid technological advancements.

Her Highness indicated that the latest from the Child Safety Department (CSD), an affiliate of SCFA, have revealed that a considerable percentage of families are not fully aware of the dangers of the internet, and stressed that any such percentage no matter how small was not acceptable as it pertains to the safety of children and youth.

Sheikha Jawaher made these comments following the release of the findings of the ‘Community Awareness on Safe Use of the Internet and Social Media Sites’ research study carried out by CSD under Her Highness’ directives and support.

Her Highness said: “The rapid advancement of digital communication tools has numerous benefits, but also brings to light several challenges. Boycotting technology to avoid its drawbacks is not a plausible solution as these technologies are necessary for education, skills development, and for communication with others. Therefore, more proactive measures are needed, such as providing guidance for our children and being vigilant about their activities. We need to focus on prevention methods instead of attempting to address only the negative impact. We are confident this goal can be achieved through diligent work and cooperation between the various segments of society and its institutions. This is what our wise leadership urges us to do, and entities from both public and private sectors agree on its importance.”

Her Highness continued: “This study, apart from imbuing us with a greater sense of responsibility to continue to work for children and youth, also provides all entities involved in childcare with much needed answers to questions on how to strike an effective balance between keeping up with shifts in technology on the one hand, and society’s need for knowledge that is beneficial and supports our values and traditions on the other hand. We hope that this study will play a pivotal role in supporting the Emirati society in achieving greater development and progress.”

“We want everyone to benefit from studies on cyber safety and adopt their findings into daily practices and targeted programmes. Families must acknowledge that the rules of parenting ought to keep pace with technological developments. This does not mean that parents must necessarily become cyber safety experts. Instead, the aim should be to instill moral values that enable children to strengthen self-control and be resistant to the harmful effects of technology. Parents must also encourage open communication among family members, and be active listeners, in addition to being attentive to any psychological or behavioural changes that may arise in children and adolescents,” Her Highness added.

Commenting on the role of academic institutions, especially schools and universities, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher stressed: “The responsibilities of academic institutions are greater, as they can transform the outcomes of such studies into programmes and strategies to raise awareness of new generations on cyber safety. This is achieved through discussions encouraging children and youth to express their views and share their experiences freely. We are looking forward to upcoming events that will bring both students and their parents on a common platform to enhance solidarity in strengthening the foundations of a healthy, vibrant, and aware society. Aware societies are fundamental to raising balanced and capable generations deeply rooted in their communities, who are aware of the values of belonging, giving, and good citizenship.

“We expect every stakeholder in our community to review the findings of CSD’s study and incorporate these into their strategies and programmes that target families, children and youth. As with all research studies, we also expect to receive contributions from specialised academic entities to further develop and review its results. More studies must be conducted to expand our knowledge on children’s and youth’s safety, for their safety is the safety of the nation, and their security is the security of our future,” Her Highness said emphasising the importance of such studies and the need to develop them further.

The CSD study, conducted over a period of 14 months, surveyed 12,344 households in Sharjah including Emirati families and expatriate residents in the administrative suburban divisions across Sharjah city.

The study revealed that 72.3 percent of families allow their children to use smart devices. It has also revealed that 37.6 percent of parents do not review their children’s activities on the internet, and that gaming websites and YouTube are the top sites frequented by their children. The study also revealed that 55.5 percent of respondents used parental control programmes to monitor the websites their children accessed and the social media applications they downloaded.