Children in many Muslim households are spending more and more hours on the Internet and social media every day, often with minimal or no supervision from parents and guardians.
With an increase in cyber-bullying, sexting, online pornography and grooming, children are more likely to become victims of those types of harms, unless parents and guardians adopt a consistent strategy and protective measures for safeguarding their children online.
The first part of the article offers a strategic outlook on the place and use of the Internet and social media in our children’s lives in relation to our purpose of life and Islamic values.
The second part offers practical action points for protecting and safeguarding children online.
Internet & Social Media Use
As with anything that demands time and use of our visual, auditory or intellectual faculties, acknowledgment of the Giver of the gifts means that we use them only in the way that pleases Him, and only in a way that coincides with the purpose for which He created us, i.e. Ibaddah (fervent worship).
Use of the Internet and social media should be linked to Ibadah, whether it is for educational purposes, research or entertainment. Help your children reflect on this and set their intentions right.
Purpose of Use
It is important to distinguish the various purposes for our children using the Internet or social media. This will help us give them the best advice.
If the purpose is educational, explore the site or app in question first. A quality educational site, app or experience is safe and includes an assessment element, levels indicating progress and encourages active learning (e.g. writing, producing).
If the purpose is for entertainment then direct your child towards educational or memory games, which are entertaining and beneficial. Avoid games and entertainment that is for the sole purpose of entertainment, such as watching movies, or playing cartoon-based games that are not linked to a clear educational value.
Ideally, encourage offline and off-devices entertainment, such as exercising, sports, socialising, voluntary community projects, cooking, creativity, art, design, and non-fiction reading. The benefits of those are far more beneficial for your child in the short and long run than passive, mind-numbing internet and social media entertainment.
The risks that come with uncontrolled and unsupervised Internet and social media use by children are numerous and serious. They include:
- Intellectual harm (indoctrination and brainwashing of a young person’s mind into believing, extreme, anti-Iman and immodest ideologies to be correct)
- Emotional and psychological harm can result from encountering cyber-bullying, pornography and sexting.
- Negligence of children online can put them in real-life physical danger to predators and paedophiles.
In addition to the above risks, one detrimental and common risk is waste of time- the precious gift that all together means Life.
Teach your child to respect time by being a model, by setting clear rules and by regular advice and reminder. Believers must count their time.
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said:
‘I have met people (referring to the companions of the prophet peace be upon him) who used to be more protective over their time than you are over your money’.