Friday, March 31, 2023

Cyber safety

As schools in Nagaland switch to online learning, the Directorate of School Education in June had alerted schools about the possibility of online exploitation of children and increase in activity related to child sexual abuse material (CSAM). A notice from Shahnavas C, Principal Director, asked heads of institutions of all schools, both Government and private, functioning within Nagaland to take necessary steps to make children and parents aware about the safe use of internet and online threats by the means of SMS, online teaching and other means which are being used to reach out to children. He said that with the introduction of online teaching by different institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, children spend more time on the internet, often unsupervised and are vulnerable to being targeted online by unwanted elements. There are reports about possibility of online exploitation of children and increase in activity related to Child Sexual Abuse Material, he notified the heads of institutions, while informing that IEC materials on safe online learning are made available in the official website of the Department of School Education, Nagaland at for necessary action. On reports that some schools are sharing personal information of students such as Aadhaar number in school WhatsApp groups, the Principal Director cautioned that this is against the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. He advised all concerned to be cautious so that the interests of students are not jeopardized. Today with children unable to attend classes in schools during the lockdown, schools have organized online classes so that the students don’t suffer and continue their studies from their respective home. There are reports that in early stage, most students showed keen interest while attending online classes. But this also gave them the opportunity to involve in playing online games, and also being engaged in other social media sites, which might slowly became a regular habit. There is the danger of social media changing the life of the children and impacting their mental and physical health. Here we need to be aware that social media has advantages as well as disadvantages, but it depends upon the parents on how they educate and also regularly monitor their children before they are given the opportunity for online engagement. While being engaged in social sites, parents should also know about digital footprints as every activity in online medium as soon as we post anything on the internet leaves a trail of presence on the internet. Parents should be aware of online abuse like cyber bullying, which is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. Another important area is privacy. In this mode, we need to keep in mind that all forms of digital communications can be forwarded, shared, altered and printed. Even if we try to deleting them they can still sometimes last forever called digital footprints. In fact the idea of safety and security of children through online medium should be primary concern of governments and NGOs while sensitizing the parents about online abuses and preventive measures. The way to achieve this may include the responsibility of government, parents, teachers, child right practitioners, counselors, social workers and other stakeholders. In particular, information aimed at limiting harm should be appropriately targeted at children. The risks to children are not from aliens but from the known. Studies have proved that children are mostly abused by those who are known to them, people on whom children trust or depend upon. In this context, it is very important that we undertake a stakeholder mapping and devise our plans accordingly. Today Internet safety for children becomes all the more important in view of online classes. We must be aware that despite the benefits of the Internet such as staying connected with loved ones through social networking sites, learning/gaining knowledge, and doing school work; it also can make children more susceptible to online threats because it also has become a tool in hands of online criminals. In such a beneficial yet unsafe and risky environment, parents must be equipped with useful and adequate means to detect early on signs of their children being at risk and minimize and prevent the chances of online exploiters from victimizing their children. With Internet connectivity and availability in almost every home, proper parenting becomes essential for online safety of children.