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Bahrain reveals first ICT safety review

Country to draft cyber-laws as study reveals adults, children exposed to cyber-crime

Bahrain reveals first ICT safety review
Bahrain has been urged to draft new cyber-crime laws that will protect both adults and children from exploitation.

Both adults and children in Bahrain are facing more and more exposure to cyber-crime, cyber-bullying and unwanted contact online, according to the Bahrain Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, which has just released its first State of the Nation Review on ICT safety.

The study focused on how both adults and those under the age of 18 use the internet.

The report also found that cyber-security awareness among adults and children was low, with both adults and young people believing everything that they read on the internet.

Bahraini Adults are frequently exposed to negative online experiences, according to the study and they do not have a reliable source of information to consult about internet advice.

The review discovered that there is an increasing trend of young female Bahraini teenagers interacting with male peers online.

Parental reactions to these interactions can be extreme and have resulted in seven documented suicide attempts by girls in April 2010.

Some of the interactions have involved adult males, although no meetings took place.

There is no law in place to regulate or prosecute online exploitation.

The study also revealed that young people do not have a very good understanding of what personal information is and how it can be used in cyber-attacks. Many of the children interviewed did not realise how public and accessible their information is on the internet.  A large number of young people interviewed had their profile on social networking sites set to public, and did not know how to set it to private.

Older children in the 14-16 and 17-18 age groups took the highest risks with online safety and a large percentage have shared personal information with a stranger and have even opened an email attachment from an unknown source.

Children in the 11-13 age group were less likely to take these risks.

A large 43% of young people in Bahrain had met face-to-face with a contact they had met online and did not know.

This data indicates much higher proportions of children meeting with online contacts when compared to recent research undertaken in Europe, according to the review.

The majority of Bahraini children either blocked unwanted or unpleasant contact or closed the browser window when unwanted contact was initiated. 

However, young people seemed reluctant to seek adult advice, according to the report.

Most parents do not participate in online activities with their children and a large proportion of young respondents were allowed unsupervised internet access.

Cyber bullying also emerged as a major concern for both teachers and children, particularly in private schools.

The teachers interviewed revealed that cyber bullying or ‘teacher humiliation' on social networking is becoming very problematic particularly in the private school sector and teachers often feel deskilled as many young people are more computer literate than they are.

Hardly any of the children or adults interviewed had ever received internet safety training at school or work and there are currently no laws or regulations in Bahrain that protect children from internet or other forms of abuse or protects adults from cyber-crime.

The review recommended that the Bahraini government draft legislation to protect children from cyber-crime including online grooming and indecent child image production and collection.

The review findings also recommend that cyber-crime legislation is drafted to protect adults from online exploitation as well as creating an internet awareness training program for both adults and children.

Stakeholders in Bahrain have also suggested that a national media campaign to raise awareness about cyber-crime and cyber-bullying should accompany training programmes for both children and parents.

These same stakeholders have suggested that an e-safety Committee be set up to plan and implement the Kingdom's internet safety strategy.

Recommendations following the report also included training for police officers and prosecutors to ensure effective implementation of the new legislation.

Stakeholders also recommended that ISPs and the TRA should play an active role in providing safety advice and technical advice on computer protection to adult internet users via their websites and occasional public workshops.

This study was led by Professor Julia Davidson, from Kingston University, London and Doctor Elena Martellozzo from Middlesex University.

The review is a comprehensive study of the dangers of using the internet for both adults and children in Bahrain.

The review included an online survey with a sample of 2,600 children and 800 adults. It also included interviews with teachers, focus groups with young people and included representatives from the Bahraini internet industry, Government Ministries (Social Development, Education and Health), NGOs, one University and charities

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