It’s important to monitor kids’ use of Internet, say experts

Bengaluru Children Safety

They face risk of exposure to explicit content

Shruti Sharma, a Bengaluru resident, remembers with horror how her neighbour’s child, once clicked on a suspicious link while operating his mother’s laptop. Following this, the computer was hacked. Explicit photos of the parents were released online, putting them in an embarrassing situation.

“This wouldn’t have happened had somebody regulated the child’s Internet surfing,” said Sharma.

Incidents like these underline the need to regulate children’s Internet surfing as online access comes with risks like inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and online predators. Children can often be exposed to this threat, experts say.

Presha Malhotra, 21, who has done an online course on cyber-security, agrees  with the urgent need for regulation. “Regulation is important in various ways. From looking  that your child doesn’t come across explicit, age-sensitive content to watching out for predators who might prod your child to reveal personal information like address and phone number, regulation is vital. Children might unknowingly become part of something dangerous,” she informed The Observer.

Tanya Sharma, 22, who, too, has done a course on cyber-security, said Internet regulation is vital. “Regulation has become more important today due to the rise in cybercrimes. The perpetrator usually targets children as they are more gullible.”

Swaraj Ghawale, a cyber-security engineer, believes there is a need to spread awareness among children on safe surfing. “Nowadays everything comes online. There are online classes and also work from home. So parents give their mobiles to their children. However, as computers and Internet-connected devices become more common for work, play or school assignments, it can become more difficult for parents to protect their children from numerous threats on the Web.”

He suggested taking some steps to spread awareness among children:

• Parents should check their children’s mobiles to ensure they surf only for educational purpose.

• A parenting software/app must be installed if your child has a mobile. Using this app, one can watch their child’s search history, and set sleeping time and other activities on the kid’s mobile.

• Installing antivirus software on mobiles and computers to secure children from online threats.

• Children should be asked to inform their parents if someone’s actions are making them uncomfortable.

• The should be told  to avoid any suspicious link and to not download anything from the Web.

Pranil Kulkarni, a cyber-security analyst at Network Intelligence,  said that  parents  should regulate their child’s Internet surfing. “Nowadays, children are targeted for taking money from parents, and teenage girls are targeted for obscene videos and pictures. Cyberbullying and sexual harassment is increasing. Monitoring is a must as children cannot handle the Internet single-handedly.”

Atul Kulkarni, an additional superintendent of police who has helped solve various cybercrimes, informed The Observer: “Cybercrime is on the rise in the country. This can be attributed to growing digitization and digital inclusion.”

Kulkarni handled a case of child pornography in which five people were arrested who  managed WhatsApp groups responsible for circulating videos and photos depicting child pornography.

Aadithya Nath, a counselling psychologist, said the Internet can affect the  children’s mental health. The Internet exposes children to many things, including  psychologically disturbing content; people harmful for children; some addiction content; and exposure to content promoting violent/unhealthy behaviour.

Such exposure can have different effects on a child’s development. “Some children may be more affected than others by virtue of their early childhood experiences, parenting style, trauma, etc. An age-appropriate way of teaching needs to come up. If exposed to anything unpleasant, then letting the child know that they are OK, and helping them understand the benefits and problems of Internet is how one should handle things. In addition to this, schools can also provide them with opportunities to learn about the Internet, its hazards and responsible use,” Nath said.

According to a Hindustan Times report that cited NCRB data, cybercrimes committed against children in India increased sharply in 2020 over the previous year.  The expansion of the Internet and its increased reach have led to a rise in cybercrimes against children.

Citing data from the NCRB, the IT ministry said that in 2019, a total of 306 cyber crime cases against children were registered, while last year, 1,102 were filed. The ministry said the government is committed to policies and actions to ensure safe use of the Internet, listing measures taken such as Section 67B of the IT Act, 2000, which enables stringent punishment for publishing, transmitting or viewing objectionable content related to children.


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