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

Bigger Purpose

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.

Risks

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.

Time

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’.  

[Qeematul Zaman, Abdul Fatah Abu-Gudah]

Empower your Child

The most empowering thing you can give to your child, which he or she will forever be grateful for is Taqwa- ‘Mindfulness of Allah’s watchfulness and hence acting appropriately inwardly and outwardly, physically and verbally’.

Have regular time with your children where you study together the meaning of the Quran, the worship of the prophet peace be upon him, companions and noble scholars.

وَتَزَوَّدُوا فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى

[Provide well for yourselves: the best provision is to be mindful of Allah–– always be mindful of Me, you who have understanding] [Al-Baqara: 197]

Below are some action points that parents and guardians can take to safeguard their children online.

Online Safety Action Points for Parents

A wise parental strategy for protecting children online should involve a balance of four elements: Education, Control, Agreement, and Vigilance (you can remember it as- ECAV).

Education

  1. Frequently reflect with your child on our purpose in life (Ibaddah) and discuss how using the internet and social media can contribute to our achievement of this great purpose or hinder it.
  2. Frequently remind yourself and your family that this life is a test, that everything we think, say, whisper, write, type, text or utter is known to Allah- the All-Knowing, All-Hearing and All-Seeing, and that we will find all those carefully recorded in a meticulous report, which we will receive on the Day of Judgement and be accountable for.
  3. Have regular discussions with your child about the internet and social media: their purpose, their risks and their advantages and disadvantages. The older the child or the more access they have to those mediums the more open and mature the discussion should be.
  4. Teach your older children the manners of averting the gaze when seeing an image (real, recorded or electronic) that is linked to desire and that desire should only be enjoyed within the blessed and protected realm of marriage.
  5. Teach your child and discuss the manners of speaking, typing or texting to, or about family and friends and the risks of communicating with strangers.
  6. On every single social media app or site that your child is on, discuss with your child all the possible inappropriate content that could come up and how to ‘report’ it to the social app or site. Also discuss all possible inappropriate behaviour by members and how to ‘block’ them from appearing or contacting your child.

Control

  1. Activate all parental controls on Broadband and mobile networks, computer and mobile devices, entertainment and search engines to protect children and young people in your house from inappropriate online content. Here is a quick and easy step-by-step guide.
  2. Put a password on all devices to ensure that they are only accessed with your permission.
  3. For safe search engines, tell children to use: Swiggle, kid-search or set up google safe-search.
  4. Make sure the homepage is locked to an appropriate and educational site, preferably one that reminds one about Taqwa.
  5. Use ‘aeroplane’ mode to shut internet access if you want your child to use a device offline.
  6. If you believe your child is not ready to use or own a device be firm and explain your reasons.
  7. Beware that with any smart device your child can get access to Wi-Fi outside your house, hence will not be bound by broadband parental controls.
  8. Before giving your consent to a site, app or game check the age suitability, read reviews about it and understand its features and risks. These sites are very useful for this purpose: Net-aware,  Protect Young Eyes , Internet Matters

Agreement

  1. If you allow certain sites or apps to be used for educational purposes be clear about what these sites or apps are.
  2. If you allow the internet to be used for research, make sure your child is only using safe search engines- see above.
  3. If you allow a site, app or game to be used for entertainment, establish clearly the place of this entertainment in relation to your child’s bigger goal in life (Ibaddah). For example, explain to your child what kind of intention to make that will gain them reward even as they are getting entertainment.
  4. Additionally, if you allow a site, app or game to be used for entertainment, establish clearly the place of this entertainment in relation to your child’s weekly or daily personal and family goals and tasks. As one scholar said: ‘Rest is only for people who work, not for those who are already in a rest.
  5. Establish clear rules about the amount of time spent on the screen.
  6. Establish that you would like to be consulted before your child downloads any app or game.

Vigilant Trust

  1. Allow your children to use the computer or laptop in a communal area in the house; such as the kitchen or bedroom.
  2. Allow all online activities to be made on a visible and large screen, such as on a laptop or computer, whereas offline activities can be done on large or smaller screens.
  3. Be involved in your child’ online and offline device-based activities.
  4. Take genuine interest in what your child wants to share with you.
  5. Tell your child that he or she can talk to you about anything that worries them about the internet and that you will not be cross with them.
  6. Tell your child that if they encounter any form of cyber-bullying that it is not their fault and that they should speak to you as soon as possible so you can help them.

 

 

If you would like to learn more about e-Safety or about Safeguarding and Protecting Children please enrol on those training programmes delivered by Faith Associates. Via our site, you could also rate your experience with your child’s Madrassah. If you are part of a Madrassah, Islamic Supplementary School or Mosque management and you would like to establish basic legal policies and procedures required for Safeguarding and Protecting Children contact us and begin Mizan accreditation.