Article by Director of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), Muhammad Farooq
The internet offers children vast access to information and entertainment, but exposes them to online threats like child exploitation. Today, busy parents often neglect their child’s well-being, leaving them vulnerable to internet dangers due to excessive digital device usage.
Parents have a key role in term of child’s physical, psychological, social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional well-being. It is important for parents to prioritize spending quality time with their children, both offline and online. This can involve educating children about the potential risks of the internet and guiding them on how to navigate online spaces safely. Parents must recognize that the internet cannot replace their role, and its risks often outweigh its benefits, potentially causing harm in the real world. Considering the increasing trend of children falling victim to online dangers and engaging in unlawful online activities, it is crucial to educate parents about these issues and provide guidance on effectively addressing this problem.
Parents should prioritize maintaining open communication and fostering a friendly atmosphere with their children. This encourages them to freely discuss negative internet experiences, allowing parents to educate them on handling such issues wisely and promptly. They need to use tools like parental control software/applications to have appropriate level of control to their child’s online activities while allowing them to use internet for useful purposes. PTA has compiled a list of parental control software, including free options to be used for restricting kid’s online activities which is available at PTA’s website (www.pta.gov.pk).
Parents need to guide children about following safety measures so as to empower them to navigate the digital world safely:
- Do not disclose personal information and identity to any one especially while using chat rooms, Instant Messaging (IM) programs, online games, or similar activities requiring a login. Hide actual personal information by using nickname as username.
- Create strong passwords for online accounts and avoid using the same password for multiple sites.
- Do not share personal information like photos, videos, or personal opinions. Once anything is made online, it is available to the rest of the world and cannot be taken down.
- Never meet online friends in person as they may not be who they claim to be.
- Behave ethically online, just as we do in real world. Prior to sharing received content, take the time to authenticate its source—particularly if it could damage someone’s reputation, target state institutions, incite law and order issues, or result in tangible harm. A valuable guideline to follow is to pause and consider associated potential consequences before sharing posts or replying to unknown emails.
- Everything you do online is being recorded and can be traced by anyone, including law enforcement agencies to catch wrongdoers.
- Do not click on suspicious links or download files from unknown sources, as it may contain malware or viruses. Only download software from reputed websites.
- Remember to regularly update your antivirus software to shield yourself from the newest security risks.
- Be conscious about phishing emails or messages, never disclose personal information such as: address, passwords, or financial details to anyone online as legitimate organizations never ask such information through unsolicited emails/messages.
- For removal of inappropriate/unlawful content from Internet /Social media, visit https://complaint.pta.gov.pk/RegisterComplaint.aspx or PTA CMS mobile app. Whereas, for initiating action against online culprits, complaint may be sent to FIA at https://complaint.fia.gov.pk/
The internet is full of opportunities and dangers. With little attention we can equip children to safely explore the internet while staying alert to possible threats.