Gulf news UAE families more worried about children's online habits in wake of ISIL

UAE families more worried about children's online habits in wake of ISIL

ABU DHABI // Parents are now even more concerned about the online influence of extremist groups such as ISIL than they are of internet predators, a conference has heard.

The fears are being addressed with training for teachers and for pupils from an early age on the perils of the internet, the International Cyber Crimes Conference heard on Wednesday.

"Families' concerns have moved from the fear of sexual exploitation to the exploitation by ISIL and other terrorist organisations," said Dr Ibrahim Al Dabal, coordinator of the Ministry of Interior's Khalifa Student Empowerment Programme.

"As we know, ISIL is based on the idea of group struggle and it sends messages to young people so that they can take part."

The programme has trained more than 62,000 pupils and 12,000 teachers in dealing with online risks, Dr Al Dabal said.

But more cooperation is needed between local organisations.

"We have to ask whether there is enough awareness spread among children, or should we talk about using an integrated method?" Dr Al Dabal said.

"It isn't enough to tell children that this is a risky path. We have to start to empower the child in how to deal with others and understand the real world, and that he shouldn't succumb to peer pressure."

His programme interviewed 35 pupils and found most played online games not suitable for their age, said Dr Al Dabal.

"Cooperation in all aspects of the community is the way," he said. "The world is coming to a state of uncontrollable technology. This includes huge challenges for which we should be ready."

A report handed to the UK parliament last week showed ISIL is training children on an "unprecedented scale" as frontline soldiers, suicide bombers, executioners and spies.

ISIL's strategy is to breed a generation of fighters better and more lethal than today's fighters, said the report by British anti-terror think tank the Quilliam Foundation.

The Ministry of Interior has sought to raise awareness nationwide to reduce the effects of cyber threats, said Lt Gen Saif Al Shafar, its undersecretary.

"Some hostile people have decided to use these technologies for negative purposes," he said.

"They have been using information technology and social media networks for malicious purposes, and it has become necessary to ensure that the law is applied in view of detecting crimes and related evidence whenever crimes occur."

Child protection laws need to be continually updated, said Mohammed Gheyath, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Smart Learning programme that focuses on encouraging technology use in education.

The programme has covered 208 government schools serving 44,000 pupils.