Posted on February 27, 2019

Vodafone Qatar’s award winning online safety programme, AmanTECH, is continuing to engage children on the subject of digital safety and its latest research findings clearly shows a number of gaps to address.

In parallel to AmanTECH’s many community engagements, Vodafone Qatar, in partnership with the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC), have been delivering online safety workshops at primary schools since late 2017. To date, 30 workshops have been conducted for close to 3000 students in Years 3-8, with plans to conduct 20 more before the end of 2019. In each workshop, the children are required to perform tasks related to safety online, in order to learn specific skills including identifying fake news vs real, safe online gaming, how to deal with cyber bullying and reputation online.

At the end of each workshop, the pupils complete an electronic survey on their use of technology, games, videos and social media. At the last 20 workshops in which 1761 children were surveyed, the following resulted:

  • 32% of pupils reported that they spend at least 8 hours online per day
  • The most popular activity is watching videos (40%), followed by playing games (23%) and social media (21%)
  • Game consoles are the most popular platform for gaming (45%) with sports games being the most popular (29%) followed by shooter games (27%). Encouragingly, over a third of the children in this age range would ask their parents to see if a game is suitable (35%) but the awareness of games’ rating system stood only at 18%.
  • Most children use Google (42%) and video sites like Youtube (41%) to find videos to watch with age-appropriate video sites like Youtube Kids is uncommon (9%)
  • Most young people were aware of the risks of meeting with online friends. 50% said they would tell parents if a stranger online wanted to meet them, 35% said they would tell the person they were not comfortable. Worryingly, 6% said they would arrange a secret meeting on their own, while 11% said they would go to the meeting, but take a friend.
  • Responses to online bullying were mixed. 31% would send back mean messages and 14% would keep quiet about it. 31% would block the bully and only 21% would tell a teacher or parent.
  • 46% of children thought their parents were concerned about too much time online

Mr. Mohammed Al Yami, Director of External Affairs at Vodafone Qatar, said: “Qatar is one of the most connected countries in the world and children are exposed to technology from a very young age. As a leading digital company, it is our duty to ensure that children are given the opportunity to make the most of communication technologies for their development while also instilling healthy and safe online habits.”

“Our work through AmanTECH has touched thousands of children and members of the community but there is much to do to raise awareness about digital safety and our research clearly shows a number of gaps. For a start, communication between parents and children is often limited to parents trying to get children off screens. A wider and more open conversation is needed about screen use and some of the risks involved. This would make children more likely to talk to parents when issues arise – for example seeing upsetting content online – which only 39% of children say they would tell an adult about.” 

The AmanTECH programme includes ongoing workshops, an online source for information and tips for parents accessible at www.vodafone.qa/AmanTECH.

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