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Governance starts at home – who is protecting our children?

Lubna Qassim posted this on

A few days ago I had a shock.  I was having a quiet time with my four year old in the early evening – he was sitting on my lap with iPad watching Spiderman and I was reading a book.  It was a peaceful and happy moment.

I was glancing at the iPad now and then as a responsible parent monitoring the content and we chatted about a few of the characters and the story and then I stopped.  What I was watching did not make sense.  The characters were dressed as Spiderman characters, which can lure any child but what they were doing should never have appeared on any screen for a child.  I was horrified.  What had happened? Any child will not be able to judge the content at such a fragile age.

This was a pop-up on the screen – and cleverly linked to the Spiderman theme. How could this awful scene be appearing on a film for my child?

There are two issues in this story.  Who is protecting our children on social media?  And what parallels can we draw from ‘governance’ at home – in setting standards for our children – to the workplace?  I want to look at both of these questions in depth in this article.

  1. Who is protecting children on social media?

If we were to watch any film in the cinema, around the world that film would be censored and given a rating as to age suitability. Cinema advertising is also matched to the age classification.

I have installed every kind of parental controls and blocks, yet alarmingly these apps are managing to side-step these.

There are clear laws about what can appear on social media.  The UAE government introduced its tough new law on Cyber Crime (Federal Decree-Law No.5 of 1012 on Combatting Cyber Crimes) in November 2012.  Under this law, many activities which might be seen as normal social media courtesies are now illegal in the UAE, such as congratulating a friend on Twitter about a job offer.

Article 21 states that technology cannot be used to invade the privacy of another, including the disclosure of conversations or photographs or “publishing news, electronic photos or photographs, scenes, comments, statements or information even if true and correct”.

But where do apps or YouTube sit?  And if we feel our privacy is being used, how do we raise this and to whom?

The challenge for all of us working in fast-moving technology fields is how we stay up to speed and even ahead of the implications of technology.  And this is proving even harder for those creating and enforcing legislation.

The breadth and impact of social media can scarcely be exaggerated. In less than a decade, we all know how it has disrupted journalism, influenced global politics, and altered commerce by providing a platform for instantaneous global communication. One big problem: social media does not distinguish between fact and fiction. This has frightening implications that have already surfaced.

  1. Governance in the home – parallels to the workplace

As I reflected on protecting my child and what I need to do to ensure he is safe, I realised there are many parallels to the workplace to ensure good governance.

As a parent I need to be clear in my own mind about the rules and my values, communicate this to my children and ensure I am consistent in saying what is and is not acceptable behaviour within this framework.  Children need parameters.

I set the tone for my children’s behaviour based on the regulation – this is criminal; and my values – this is how and why I believe we should behave.

We then need to monitor and evaluate – in this case, it was keeping an eye on what my children are watching and checking that it is acceptable.  And when we find something that is wrong, we stop it immediately, explain why it is not acceptable (in language appropriate to their age) and ensure it cannot happen again.

Of course, as my children grow up I know this will become more challenging.  And that is where maybe as parents we can learn from the workplace.  If we want employees to understand and follow corporate values, we need to allow them to ‘own’ and work out and state how those rules should apply to them and to their teams, in practice.

With our children, I believe we need to talk about ‘the rules’ and why they have been made and discuss those that cannot be broken; and those that are our personal beliefs and values and why.  In this latter case, we need then to get our children to set their own rules within the framework.

Well, that is the theory and I look forward to putting it into practice!

But my great example, who I mentioned in my last  article, is our leader, HH Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, who walked into public department offices at 7.30am and videoed the empty offices.  He was walking the talk and made it clear he expected people to be working in their office hours – he was.  As parents and leaders we need to ensure that we live out our own values and that our behaviours are consistent with the behaviours we want from our children and colleagues.  Both are quick to spot the gaps between talk and walk.

I would welcome views on this subject.  Is there something I need to understand and do to protect my child? Who is looking at legislating these apps – and more to the point, then enforcing that legislation. Is this something that is serious?  And what should we be doing about it?

And also – what else can parents learn from corporate governance – or maybe the other way around!

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