'Don't give children gadgets just to keep them busy'

KUALA LUMPUR - Parents should limit and monitor their children's Internet usage to minimise risk and prevent crimes against the young in cyberspace, say educators.

Early Childhood Care and Education Council president Professor Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng said the younger generation had easy access to the Internet through smart phones and tablet computers, thanks to the parents.

"Parents are providing children with all these devices at a young age. The children grow up with it and see it as a part of their lives. "The problem is if children are not monitored, they may not be aware of the hazards of Internet exposure," she told the New Straits Times yesterday.

She said parents should keep an eye on their children and not provide them with gadgets just to keep them busy.

"For example, we don't know who our children are speaking to online because the conversation is not face to face.

"A person who claims to be 15 may in fact be 50."

Chiam, in praising the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry's move to set up a task force to curb cyber crime against children, said it was important that steps are taken to protect children.

However, Chiam said the ministry should consult the right people to ensure any action is done properly.

"In the process of drawing up the guidelines, the ministry should involve all stakeholders. Parents will also need to collaborate as many may not realise the extent of the hazards in cyberspace."

Universiti Sains Malaysia Bachelor of Education (preschool education) programme chairperson Prof Dr Nor Hashima Hashim said it was important for parents to closely monitor their children.

"Everything has its pros and cons. The Internet gives our children knowledge and they will become more intelligent.

"But parents and all members of society have to monitor them. They should not be given too much freedom."