We cannot lock our children out of the online space because of the dangers of the digital world. Internet is a necessity for everyone including children. By blocking them from using the internet we are restricting their access to a vast repository of meaningful information. We don’t stop sending them to school because of the various criminal incidents that are happening in many schools. Do we? Similarly, we cannot and should not ban them from accessing the internet. The important point here is as Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF representative in India, says,
“Just as we help children understand the risks in the physical world, we need to guide and navigate them through the digital one.”
More than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day. It is estimated that about 134 million children have mobile phones in India alone. According to the IAMAI survey undertaken in 35 Indian cities 28 million internet users in India are school-going children. Surveys conducted by Telenor in 12 countries found that children in India are in the highest risk category. Online predators can reach further than you think.
Your child is online and experiences something that makes him/her uncomfortable or worried. Someone has bullied them and they don’t know what to do. Someone’s messages go from friendly to threatening. Internet has so many things to love about. But it is also being misused and abused every day and our children are paying a heavy price for it.
How can we make the internet a safer place for our children?
The first and foremost way is to educate ourselves about the various forms of online abuse. Learn how to take preventive measures and how to tackle if your child happens to be a victim of online abuse.
FORMS OF ONLINE ABUSE:
There are many forms on online abuse that happen, but I am discussing only the most common forms that deal with child online abuse here.
- Cyberbullying or Bullying Online- When one or more children use technology such as the Internet, mobile phones, or other gadgets to threaten, harass, or embarrass another child, it’s called Cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying goes beyond just bullying. It follows you home via text messages, web sites, and into your bedrooms.
- Online Sexual Abuse – Online sexual exploitation and abuse is when a person manipulates another person to get them to do something sexual. It’s an ongoing cycle of emotional and psychological abuse. It can include things such as forcing or blackmailing someone into to sending sexual pictures/videos of themselves online or to perform sexual acts over web camera. [Source: Kids Help Phone]
- Online Grooming – Child grooming is basically befriending and forming an emotional bond with a child by a person with the objective of sexual abuse. These ‘friendly molesters’ become acquainted with their targeted victim, gaining their trust while secretly grooming the child as a sexual partner. [Source: Firstpost]
- Cyber Extremism – Cyber extremism is resorting to violence using any online platform. Cyber terrorism in based upon cyber extremism. Terrorist groups are fighting an cyber war, with the use of slick videos, online messages of hate and even an app that all aim to radicalise and create a new generation of cyber jihadists. Even young kids aren’t spared.
Experts say that we must start discussing internet safety with children at an early age.
- TOGETHER – Be the first one to help your child discover the world of Internet
- WHAT & WHAT NOT – Encourage your child to be careful when disclosing personal information.
- CONCEPT OF RIGHT & WRONG – The concept of Right and Wrong behaviour has to be kept in mind even during your online sojourns. If they won’t do it to someone face to face – they shouldn’t do it online.
- TALK ABOUT RISKS – Talk to your child about the impending risks of meeting online “friends” in person. It might be a predator in disguise.
- BEWARE OF STRANGERS WITH GIFTS – Just as you would warn them against strangers in the physical world, warn them against friendly strangers in the online world.
- COUNSEL DON’T BAN – Do not be way too critical of your child’s exploration of the online world. Just be available without being intrusive.
- PARENTAL CONTROLS – Apply parental controls wherever necessary and wherever possible.
- LIMIT USAGE – Set a time limit for Internet usage just like you limit their screen time and other activities. This makes it easier to keep a check on their online activity.
- QUALITY TIME – Do not just be there to give advice but also spend quality time with your children to make them understand that they can trust you and you’ll always be there to protect them.
SAFER PLATFORMS FOR KIDS
KIDDLE – Google for kids – https://www.kiddle.co/ – Kiddle is a visual search engine for kids powered by Google, offering safe kids web, image, and video search. The “.co” extension stands for “children only” – Google’s focus and vision for Kiddle. The results are vetted by editors. Results satisfy family friendly requirements as sites with explicit or deceptive content are filtered off.
YOUTUBE KIDS – YouTube Kids (https://kids.youtube.com/) was built from the ground up to be a fun, family-friendly place for kids and families. The YouTube Kids app includes both favourite children’s videos, shows as well as a variety of new content, delivered in a way that is easy to use for children of any age. It’s free, simple to use, and full of family-friendly videos.
VIDEOS ON KIDS ONLINE SAFETY
Here are a collection of videos that you can watch with your children on how to stay safe on the net. NetSafe Videos
You are a TEAM. Talk to your kids and let them know that you are ALWAYS there to help. Make sure they know you are there to help them be SAFE ONLINE.
EXISTING LAWS FOR CHILD PROTECTION
- POCSO – Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
- Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibited) Act, 2013
- National Cyber Security Policy, 2013
- National Policy of ICT in Schools, 2012
- The National Policy of Children (NPC), 2013
- The Information Technology Act, 2000
Child Online Protection in India – UNICEF – This PDF includes everything you need to know about online safety of children and how to react in case of an abuse and cybercrime investigation cells in India.
As someone who has been through a case of Online Identity Theft, I will repeat “Prevention is always better than Cure“. The existing laws have a lot of loopholes and it isn’t easy to book a predator, that too one who is hiding behind the anonymity offered by internet or is using a fake identity that can land an unsuspecting individual in trouble. Be the guardian of your child, ONLINE and OFFLINE.
RETHINK Before You Type
Trisha Prabhu is a 18-year-old innovator, social entrepreneur, global advocate and inventor of patented ReThink™ Technology – an effective way to detect and stop online hate. She is currently pursuing her undergraduate education at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Trisha was just 13 when she heard of a 11-year-old girl who was repeatedly cyber-bullied by her classmates and ended up committing suicide. At the age of 15, she developed the app ‘ReThink’. It is an innovative technology that detects cyber-bullying, or hurtful and bullying words – on text messages, emails, social media posts and any app that uses a keyboard. It then gives a chance to the person writing them to rethink his or her actions. Over 93% of the time, adolescents changed their minds and decided not to post offensive or hurtful messages.