Nearly half of the country’s teenagers have been a victim of online threats, a survey suggests.
One in every two of the youngsters polled said they had encountered issues such as cyber bullying, identity theft and harassment.
The study, by the International Computer Driving Licence GCC, questioned 883 UAE youths between the ages of 14 and 18.
Almost 20 per cent said they had been the victim of cyber bullying, while 15 per cent said they had experienced identity theft and 13 per cent said they had been harassed.
“Proactive involvement of parents and teachers in monitoring and reaching out to children is very crucial, as it could go a long way in averting all forms of online abuses,” said Jamil Ezzo, director general of the ICDL GCC Foundation.
Eighty-six per cent of respondents said they did not know who to go to for help with cyber crime.
Forty-two per cent turned to their parents, while 27 per cent preferred to speak to their friends. Only 13 per cent said they reported the crime to the authorities and just 7 per cent shared their concerns with teachers.
“Rather than preventing them from using these useful digital platforms, we should come up with guidelines and frameworks on safe and responsible practices of internet usage and educate them about dangers lurking on the web,” Mr Ezzo said.
Seven out of 10 teens said their parents supervised them online and knew the information on their social medial accounts.
Twitter is the most popular social-media platform among UAE teenagers with 36 per cent having accounts, followed by Facebook at 29 per cent, the survey revealed.
More than a third of the students using Facebook and Twitter said they were friends with and followed by their parents.
Nearly 50 per cent said they used social media for “staying in touch with their friends”, followed by chatting and studying at 21 and 18 per cent respectively.
Only 5 per cent of respondents were not allowed to use social media at home, and 57 per cent were not permitted to access it at school.
Most of the teenagers, 30.5 per cent, said schoolwork was the most important reason for using a computer, followed by gaming (23 per cent) and downloading music and videos (18.7 per cent).
“With today’s youth highly reliant on the internet and social-media channels for studies, information, entertainment and staying connected with the world, it becomes highly imperative to develop measures to protect them from the dangers posed by the internet,” Mr Ezzo said.
The ICDL GCC Foundation advocates teaching children about staying safe online at school from an early age. The organisation said teachers, school administrators and parents played a vital role in educating youngsters and helping them to understand how to use the evolving technologies safely.