How safe is Internet for your kid?


When my daughter, now studying dental surgery, started using Internet for the first time in class V, though majorly accessing it for information to complete her school projects, the one thing that struck my mind was – how safe is Internet for her? And I believe there would be many other paranoid parents like me out there. Having spent over two decades plus in media, I had regular access to various reports and studies conducted by government and private institutions on increasing potential risks of online abuse and exploitation, on cyber-safety measures and cybercrimes. So, I kept a regular watch and checked the history each time she finished with it.

Going by the Microsoft Digital Civility Index Report 2017, 64% Indian youth face online risks such as cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment, 75% know a friend or family member who has been subjected to online harassment and 44% have met the perpetrator of the risk but only 50% know where to get help if needed. On one hand where digital technologies offer significant developmental and educational benefits for kids, it also poses an increased risk of them being exposed to online abuse and exploitation on the other. As new methods are being introduced to abuse, harass and exploit kids, cyber offences against children are fast spreading and diversifying. In some cases, children are turning offenders too. In fact, teenage internet addiction is a rising problem that most parents are facing these days.

“The most common warning signs of abuse in cyber as well as physical worlds manifest as signs of depression, anxiety, social isolation, nervousness and low self-esteem. Parents need to be alert to read these signs and immediately take corrective measures. It is important that while we draw benefit from the immense potential of new technologies, we must also make use of all the security features available to make it a safe and pleasant experience,” warns psychiatrist Jyoti Kapoor during a discussion on different kinds of cyber-physical threats in existence today and how we need to keep our children safe and secure.

To that end, Microsoft and KidZania have joined hands with Dr Kapoor to create awareness about good practices for holistic and collaborative cyber-physical safety of children. While Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more, KidZania’s vision is to ignite the hearts and minds of kids everywhere by empowering them to make the world a better place. Microsoft and KidZania are helping create protected cyber and physical spaces where children are empowered to learn, be creative and achieve more.

“The Internet can be a wonderful educational tool as well a means of providing interactive and constructive leisure activities for children. However, most parents are rightly worried about some of the content their children may be exposed to on the web and want to keep them safe online. As a parent myself, I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the Microsoft Family features within Windows 10 to create a secure online environment,” shares Alok Lall, Partner Technology Lead, Microsoft India.

On KidZania being the pioneers in creating safe and interactive indoor theme parks across the world
including India, Viraj Jit Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, KidZania India, said, “KidZania has over 18 years of experience running safe and secure theme parks all over the world. Since inception in India, we have hosted more than 2.5 million visitors. While our safety measures are of international standards, there is a constant flow of learning through best practices from our 24 global centers. We constantly innovate and since technology plays an integral role in creating a safe and secure space for our visitors, we will reach out to partners who can help us explore the benefits of AI, IoT, cognitive services and other Cloud based services to provide seamless cyber-physical safety to our children.

To protect children from inappropriate content and secure the system from malware, Windows 10 Fall Creators Update has introduced new features in the Windows Defender Security Center that provide easy access to and integration with Parental Controls. Microsoft Family allows parents to insulate their children from inappropriate content strewn across the web. When parents add their child to the Microsoft Family and turn on activity reporting, they get weekly activity report emails that show a summary of their activity, including websites visited, games and apps used, terms searched for on search engines like Bing and how much screen time they had, even if they have logged in from a friend’s house or any other screen.

Apart from Microsoft, DSCI, a body set up by NASSCOM, conducts social awareness campaigns to educate children and adult Internet users about cyber-security and cybercrimes. While Intel Security’s Cybermum organises online safety for children through Intel’s security portal, Twitter and Facebook., the Internet and Mobile Association of India supports a school and college outreach programme on safe web surfing and digital wellness. On the other hand, Telenor’s Webwise educates first-time users to the Internet’s potential for information and learning and to online risks of bullying, abuse and malware. As part of India’s Digital Literacy and Internet Safety Campaign, Google’s Web Rangers programme empowers teens to promote safe Internet use among children.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), a part of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, has launched a five-year project on information security, education and awareness. This programme promotes awareness of information security among children, families and professionals.

A few civil society organisations have addressed child online protection issues due to a lack of technological know-how. Tulir Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse is raising public awareness of child sexual abuse and prevention and support services for child victims. Bachpan Bachao Andolan’s 2015 Full Stop campaign raised awareness of cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking and sexting. Freedom from Abuse of Children from Technology, a programme launched by the Asian School of Cyber Laws, informs parents and children about online threats and how to mitigate them. These NGO initiatives tend to have limited reach and do not adequately address the growing need for informed and responsible use of the Internet. (Child Online Protection in India Report Unicef 2016)

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