To sensitise school and college students to the dangers of growing dependence on the internet, the Cyber Crime cell of the city police has planned regular awareness sessions in various educational institutions across the city.

Citing instances where the police had to deal with cases erupting as a result of children publishing material online, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber Crime Cell) M. Sudhakar told The Hindu, that “Things can escalate and become serious, as children share personal information on social networking sites without any caution.” Increasingly, college students are found indulging in incidents of cybercrime such as identity theft, illegal gambling or cyber bullying due to peer pressure, he added.

The Chennai Cyber Crime cell has been giving regular lectures in schools on the importance of cyber safety, he said, apart from organising awareness camps in tech fests, trade fairs in schools and colleges. “We try to make these sessions interactive by asking the students to fill up questionnaires related to their online experiences and informing them about the recent cases of cyber abuse among youth,” he said.

Discussions on parenting forums such as ‘Chennaimother's quest', ‘parentree' and ‘parentingfundas' reflect the growing concerns of parents in the city who are looking for ways to tackle the challenges posed by an expanding cyberspace.” Online gaming starts as a fascination, but becomes an addiction soon”, said Ranjitha Kumaran, a mother of thirteen-year-old student who got addicted to trading in online mock-gambling sites and had to be given counselling.

“We make sure that our students access the internet during school hours only for educational purposes,” said Geetha Nandakumar, Vice-principal, Bhavans Rajaji Vidyashram. Many schools and colleges have counsellors or value education teachers to counsel students. “It's equally important to educate parents about cyber safety,” said Ms. Nandakumar adding that the significance of cyber awareness is addressed in many PTA meetings.

Counsellors feel excessive censorship and parental blocking of sites will only prompt the children to resort to unethical ways of using the cyber space. Responsible monitoring is what is required, said S. Sujatha Hariharan, psychologist and counsellor for schools. Discussing online applications with children and developing their interest in surfing websites on topics of their interest will encourage the children to understand the educational value of the internet, she added.

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012

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