Examining the real risk to Muslim children on the internet
An internet safety project, involving mothers and daughters from Leeds, has revealed a ‘worrying lack of awareness of online risks’ such as bullying and grooming.
Parents of children as young as nine-years-old admitted to not knowing about possible dangers when online, allowing their youngsters to browse freely on tablets and smart phone devices.
However, the case of three British schoolgirls who travelled to Syria last month to join with IS militants was a ‘wake-up call’ for the parents according to the project leaders.
Funded by an ‘Awards for All’ National Lottery grant, the scheme involved around 20 mothers and daughters from the local Muslim community, concluding with the unveiling of a three-dimensional art piece last week.
It began with discussions and debate around how children today are introduced to such advanced technology by parents, who have little knowledge or awareness about the dangers.
The views and concerns expressed were then translated into the final piece of art in the form of a large wall hanging made from wire, nuts, bolts and other materials found around the home.
The intricate installation depicts a series of issues such as online bullying, sexual grooming and addiction to gadgets and was unveiled at the Hamara Healthy Living Centre on Monday 9th March.
Delivered by leadership and arts development consultants, Zareen Ahmed and Saiqa Ehsan, from 21st Century Citizen (21CC) and Silverleaf Arts, the prior said she was ‘at times’ surprised during the project.
“Surprisingly, some participants told us that they had never even heard of internet grooming, and they had given their sons and daughters as young as nine, smart phones and tablets without any consideration of the possible dangers,” Zareen said.
CEO of the Hamara Centre, Hanif Malik added: “The recent shock of the teenage girls who have run away to Syria is a wake-up call for parents to become more aware of these issues.
“We want to warn them that when your child is at home texting on the phone, he or she could in fact be talking to someone on the other side of the world.”
Mr Malik continued by describing how the creative art approach had enabled participants who, for whatever reason found it difficult to express themselves, to communicate their feelings through art.
He explained that the wall hanging was fun and interactive, giving people the opportunity to add their own opinions to one of the sections. “It’s a great catalyst for getting young people and their parents talking more openly about these critical issues”, he said.