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Social media undermining family bonds, experts warn

By Laila Azzeh - Aug 22,2016 - Last updated at Aug 22,2016

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AMMAN – Potential dangers associated with the rapid growth of Internet usage in the Kingdom were the hot-button issues tackled by sociologists, academics, family counselling experts and security personnel in Amman on Monday. 

During a round-table discussion organised by the National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA), representatives of various sectors underlined the need to address threats resulting from the growing popularity of social media at the expense of family bonds.

According to the council’s 2014 Family Status Report, around 68 per cent of Jordanians believed that social media sites affected the amount of time family members spend together. 

Furthermore, more than 60 per cent of families perceive the Internet as their key partner in raising their children. 

With more than 57 per cent of households owning computers and 43 per cent with online access, experts called for holistic national strategies to curb risks associated with using the Internet. 

Bahaa Al Din Khasawneh, the director general of the National Information Technology Centre, noted that 95 per cent of Jordanians own mobile phones, 89 per cent have Facebook accounts and 71 per cent are active on WhatsApp.

“Ninety-three per cent of Jordanians access Facebook each day,” he noted. 

68% of Jordanians believe social media sites affect amount of time family members spend together.

Over 60% of families perceive the Internet as key partner in raising their children 

57% of households own computers and 43% have online access

95% of Jordanians own mobile phones 

89% has Facebook accounts 

93% of Jordanians access Facebook each day

71% of Jordanians are active on WhatsApp

Source: National Council for Family Affairs and National Information Technology Centre

While the increase in the use of modern technology should result in better knowledge, experts agreed that this is not the case in the Arab world. 

“We realised through our studies on cyber behaviours that citizens do not use the Internet in useful ways when we compare them with those in developed countries. In general, there is no well-developed Arabic content on the Internet,” said Zain Jordan Chief Operations Officer Yousef Abu Mutawe.

He said the problem lies in Arabs’ mindsets which, according to him, lack productivity and creativity.

Experts say that cyberspace has introduced the sexual exploitation of children, marriage disputes and extremism to Jordanian society. 

“Until the end of July, we have dealt with 5,272 crimes related to the family, 20 per cent of which have to do with the Internet, such as sexual exploitation of children,” said Colonel Atallah Fahed Sarhan, the director of the Public Security Department’s Family Protection Department (FPD).

Last year, the department dealt with 7,865 cases, he added, noting that the FPD has introduced a new system to track sexual crimes against children. 

However, Criminal Investigation Department Director Brig. Gen. Qassim Ibrahim noted that cybercrimes in the Kingdom remain below international levels, reaching 2,113 in 2013.

“On the other hand, the figure increased by 24 per cent in 2015, and the number of cybercrimes registered so far this year stands at 2,013,” he said.

Meanwhile, the participants underlined the role the media can play in raising parents’ awareness of the risks to their children of uncontrolled use of the Internet. 

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