Posted on April 19, 2020

The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has dramatically changed our communication habits and we are all coping better with self-isolation thanks to the advantages of technology. With schools shut, children have much more time to spend online as well, if not doing schoolwork, then playing games, chatting to their friends and finding ways to stay entertained while stuck at home.

If controlled properly, the extra screen time can create no end of opportunities for younger users to expand their world and their knowledge. They gain more digital literacy and at the same time, have a host of amazing resources at hand that are educational as much as they are entertaining. 

Many schools are welcoming newer digital innovations that can help teachers augment standard tools such as Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom with new technologies to meet education needs during COVID-19.  But as digital technology rapidly evolves, and with it the proliferation of smart handsets and devices, so do the risks that children face online, in the form of cyberbullying, theft of personal information, phishing and online predators. Recently, even some of the most popular tools used by remote teams have been identified as high-risk due to low data privacy protection policy and low control over shared files.

For parents, having to manage their children’s technology needs and online safety around the clock while balancing remote working responsibilities can feel overwhelming. Through its digital safety programme, AmanTECH (which stands for “Safe Technology” in Arabic), Vodafone Qatar is making a set of user-friendly online resources available to help parents become active partners in their children’s digital life.

AmanTECH’s safety checklists and ‘how to’ guides, including a Digital Parenting Guide, and digital safety tips are freely accessible, so that their young users, full of natural curiosity, can benefit from the internet safely. Among these safety tips are practical ways for parents to use the software and settings on smartphones and devices to help children stay safe online by restricting their access to certain apps, content and social networks.

Vodafone AmanTECH shares some important tips for activating these settings:

  • Control the ‘location settings’ which could tell other users where the phone, and the person using it, are at that specific moment, as well as when and where a photograph was taken.
  • Monitor access to real-time video-calling services like IMO and TikTok. Although there are many positive uses, some children and teenagers suffer cyberbullying through the applications, and information or pictures shared privately might be sent on to other people.
  • Set up profiles for different users which are appropriate for their age and maturity. 
  • Prevent children and young people from spending money online to purchase apps, music or games without permission.
  • Restrict access to social networks and control whether and how photos and videos can be shared.

It is important to remember that these parental controls and privacy settings need to be combined with supervision, sensible limits and working with children to guide them safely in the digital world.

Parents can introduce a fun way to learn about online safety through the ‘AmanTECH Online Safety Challenge’, an augmented reality game for tablets and smartphones that can teach youngsters to create a strong password, prevent cyberbullying, identify fake messages and protect their personal information on the internet, and also how to safely share photos and information on social media. Suitable for children aged 7-13 years old, the AmanTECH app can be downloaded from the Apple store and Google Play store.

During these unprecedented times, Vodafone Qatar is making greater online safety awareness a promise, by helping parents and children to practice responsible digital behaviour. They can count on the help of Vodafone Qatar - a partner who understands today’s communication environment better than anyone. So rather than a disruption to routines, social distancing and spending more time in the home together can be an opportunity for parents to be more engaged with their children online. For more resources and technology tips, digital parents can visit www.vodafone.qa/AmanTECH.

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