Abu Dhabi: With approximately 98.99% of the total UAE population using social media platforms, the country has one of the highest social media penetration rates in the world.
Yet two-thirds of families have no control over the content children are exposed to, the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) observed.
With children also having more screen time, on average, than recommended, this exposes young minds to multiple risks, including psychological, behavioral and developmental, warned Thamer Al Qassimi, Executive Director of Special Projects and Partners at ECA. .
To stem the dangers, the authority has launched its Guide to Reporting on Children for the Media, which calls on content creators and mass media to adopt practices designed to protect the well-being of children. Officials also stressed that parents and guardians work to protect children from the dangers of exposure to inappropriate content.
“This is a shared responsibility, and we call on media producers to commit to ethical practices when reporting on children, as well as when developing content for them. At the same time, there is now a proliferation of parents who are also content creators, and we urge them to know and protect their children’s rights when developing content, especially as some forms of information can have a negative impact on the long-term well-being of children. term,” Al Qassimi told Gulf News.
Children constitute 21% of the total population of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and since its establishment, the ECA has worked to promote their protection and development. Its latest guide is designed to encourage principled reporting on children and careful exposure of the youngest members of society – those under the age of nine – to digital content.
“Children in this age group are greatly affected by exposure to media and news because of their limited ability to understand the nature of things around them. This is also the period in which the main traits personality of children are shaped, as well as their mental abilities and basic skills,” said Al Qassimi.
Harmful content can hamper children’s sense of safety and erode their self-esteem. It can promote depression and isolation, while hampering children’s concentration and academic performance. Experts have warned that some content can also encourage violent behavior or cause parents to become overprotective in ways that limit children’s natural curiosity. In addition, children can also develop various disorders as a result of inappropriate exposure, including eating disorders, poor
While child welfare is enshrined in the UAE under the Wadeema Law – Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 on the Rights of the Child, the ECA has noted disturbing trends in reporting during the pandemic, including the publication of documents containing missing details. It therefore released the Child Online Protection Guide earlier this year and “fills in the gaps” by also involving media producers and content creators.
“Through such initiatives, we hope that parents and guardians will work harder to protect children, and that the media will bring in experts in child behavior to ensure that content is safe for the target audience, including young children,” Al Qassimi said.
He also said that the content posted should also be relevant to UAE society and respectful of cultural and social values.
How to ensure content is child-friendly
-Avoid stigmatizing children in any way.
-Provide specific context for the topic.
– Change the names and visual identity of children who are part of a sensitive story, such as one involving abuse.
– If a child is identified in the content for their best interests, still make sure they are protected from harm.
-Obtain permission from a parent or guardian before interviewing a child and confirm information obtained from a child with other children or an adult.
-Make sure a guardian is present when speaking with a child for content creation or reporting purposes.
-When using children for content creation or reporting, avoid dramatizing the material.
-When developing content for children, ensure that the information is not unfairly biased or incomplete. And if you’re discussing a challenge, present its solutions.