RIYADH: Almost half of parents in Saudi Arabia use parental control apps to monitor their children’s online activity, a new survey has revealed.
The study into the digital behaviors of families in the Kingdom, conducted by global cybersecurity company Kaspersky, showed that during the COVID-19 pandemic parents had become increasingly concerned about the length of time spent online and the safety of content being viewed by their kids.
Of those parents quizzed for the survey, 49 percent said they used parental control apps, 47 percent regularly checked their children’s internet history, and 58 percent reported that their kids used digital devices under the supervision of either a parent (46 percent) or a family member (12 percent).
Meanwhile, 64 percent wanted to control the videos that children watched, 60 percent the games they played, and 57 percent the sites they visited, while 47 percent of respondents were keen to limit the time kids spent online and using devices throughout the day. More than half (55 percent) of them claimed to discuss healthy digital habits with their children.
The results of the study also showed that parents and family members mainly took responsibility for regulating the behavior of children in the digital space (88 percent). But 47 percent felt teachers and schools should do the job, and 31 percent thought it should be the personal responsibility of children.
A total of 98 percent of parents questioned said they discussed the rules of online behavior and digital etiquette with their kids.
Experts reckon that although children were more technically advanced than previous generations, many remained naive about online security and safety.
Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, adviser and professor of law at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Children’s use of the internet is a daily routine nowadays whether for e-learning due to the pandemic or merely as an entertainment or learning tool.
“So, parents have no choice but to live with it and deal with it. This can be achieved by informing their kids of bad content on the internet.
“Parents must also inquire about the content that their kids watch or read online to understand their kids’ tendencies and interests. Parental control over child online activities is a must nowadays due to the large volumes of bad content targeting kids online which can affect them mentally and physically in a bad way,” he said.
Al-Obaidy pointed out that parents should play a role in choosing appropriate online content for their kids, especially for younger children.
“The internet is a very useful tool when used properly for education and entertainment. But if not used properly, it can badly affect children. Having a meaningful discussion with your kids about the dangers of online time is always the better solution than merely monitoring their online activities.
“Personally, I do not prefer monitoring but informing my kids about online risks and dangers, it is the best solution in my opinion, as this will make kids more trusting of their parents since they don’t infringe on their privacy which kids value a lot and this, in turn, will encourage kids to report to their parents all their online activities,” he added.
Maha Al-Balawi, a parent in Riyadh, told Arab News: “I am glad that I have an option that helps me control what my children watch. But it is not always helpful, especially with YouTube, because I can’t control the video game ads that pop up every few minutes. Most of them are not appropriate and can be violent.”
Mennatallah Elmeligie, a teacher at an international school in Riyadh, said: “As a teacher in the current pandemic crisis, I would personally say I appreciate how gadget-friendly nowadays kids are. It’s a matter, of course, of pros and cons.
“These days kids take responsibility for posting their assignments, checking their online material, and sometimes even use technology in different activities.”
In our online classes we made use of this by integrating online games, which we call game-based learning. Taking advantage of how tech-savvy kids are, helps them add a pinch of fun while learning at the same time in a game-based setting.
“Kids already know how to get into the games as we provide them with the needed access details, and they may play with the whole class, or it can even go beyond by assigning it as homework.
“Pre-pandemic, this idea may have looked wild and crazy, which is why it’s always important to believe in children as beings not becomings. When we treat kids as beings, we give them a chance to learn in a way that makes use of their capabilities and skills and upgrade that one step at a time.
“As a mother, I try to keep my kid in an online child-friendly environment, using specific apps, sitting next to her while she is checking things, and reducing screen time as much as possible. Without the help of specific screen time activities, paired with my supervision, I cannot imagine things going so smoothly during the pandemic,” Elmeligie added.