Safeguarding Children in the Digital Age: The Role of Parents and Technology

By The Malketeer

In an era where social media has become an integral part of our lives, protecting children from the dangers lurking in the digital world has become a pressing concern.

As children increasingly navigate the complex landscape of social media platforms, parents, activists, and experts are calling for innovative measures to ensure their safety.

Family First: Building Strong Bonds as a Digital Defence

In a report in Free Malaysia Today (FMT 7 June 2024), James Nayagam, Chairman of the Suriana Welfare Society, stresses on the pivotal role of strong family ties in shielding children from internet dangers.

He urges parents to forge solid relationships with their children, teaching them effective communication skills and appropriate online behaviour.

“The foundation of online safety begins at home. Parents must engage with their children, understand their digital habits, and guide them towards responsible internet use,” Nayagam says.

He suggests a collaborative approach between parents and children, proposing agreements to avoid certain websites or social media platforms.

“If there is any breach of the agreement, then the parents must withdraw their internet privileges,” he advises.

This strategy not only sets clear boundaries but also fosters trust and accountability within the family unit.

Government Action: Uniting Agencies for Online Protection

The urgency of this matter was highlighted by Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil’s recent announcement of a campaign to address online grooming and prevent children under 13 from registering on social media.

While the Ministry acknowledges its limited control over foreign social media platforms’ regulations, the campaign aims to unite various agencies, including law enforcement and data protection departments, to promote online safety.

A Multifaceted Approach: Prevention, Education, and Technology

However, the challenge extends beyond governmental efforts.

SL Rajesh, a Senior Fellow at the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals, notes that while eliminating cyber predators entirely may be impossible, a multifaceted approach can significantly reduce risks.

“We need a combination of prevention, education, enforcement, and technological solutions to protect our children in the online world,” he explains.

The Identity Verification Debate: Balancing Safety with Privacy

One proposed solution by academic Siti Nasarah Ismail of UiTM involves users providing proof of legal age, such as identity cards, when registering for social media accounts.

However, both Nayagam and Rajesh express skepticism about this approach.

Nayagam points out the impracticality, given that major platforms like Facebook and TikTok are foreign-based and do not require identity card registration.

“Children can fake their identities using their parents’ accounts or ICs,” he warns. “Setting regulations are outdated. We must innovate to tackle this challenge.”

Rajesh concurs, highlighting potential risks like identity theft. Instead, he proposes alternative strategies that balance safety with privacy.

These include setting up parental consent mechanisms without MyKad verification, such as secure online forms or video conferencing, community reporting systems to flag underage accounts, partnerships with third-party verification services, and integrating digital identity cards.

The Way Forward: Community and Innovation

“By fostering a collaborative approach to online safety and innovation, we aspire to set a benchmark for industry best practices,” Rajesh states.

His vision encompasses not just protecting children from immediate threats, but contributing to their overall well-being in the digital age.

Safeguarding children online requires a unified effort from parents, government bodies, tech companies, and experts.

While technology and regulations play a part, the most potent shield remains strong family relationships.

As Nayagam suggests, parents forming support groups to educate each other about the evolving digital landscape can create a community of informed guardians.

In this digital age, it’s clear that protecting our children is not just a personal responsibility, but a collective endeavour that demands constant vigilance, adaptation, and above all, open communication.

Source: Free Malaysia Today (FMT)

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