Watch with whom they chat
Children browsing the internet. Photo: K.R. Deepak
Internet has become the defrauder's haven. There are virtually no barriers and no fear of opprobrium to anything that happens on the net. There is absolutely no difference between the good, the bad and the ugly.
It is a surreal world where you can reach any home and any mind really fast any time. Children are the most vulnerable to net criminals. Not just because they have no experience, but because they have no fear!
Plenty of horror stories stride the web and many of them are staged in India. A child constantly bumps into hate groups, perverts, paedophiles and scamsters in cyberville. Remember those that taught kids in the US to make bombs on the net? The macabre massacre of 13 students by adolescents in a US school sent shock waves world over. The children were addicted to Internet and frequenting the sites of weapons and terrorist groups. For them "killing" became an exciting word.
We need to take immediate action and protect our children from such quagmires of hatred. While surfing the net your child may accidentally enter alien hands through the most innocuous looking sites. A local school history teacher narrated an incident of having told her students to do a project on 'President of America', and many of her students clicked on whitehouse.com for relevant details. Imagine their shock when the site turned out to be America's most notorious porn site!
This could happen to any of us. None can forbid surfing. A child could be racing through X-rate sites, and it is equally possible that he is downloading valuable information for a project. Here is where you come in as parents.
Remember, the new age children are smarter than you and no ban on surfing will deter them. There is no substitute for parental supervision.
Also logically argue with the child, with solid points. "It is not a matter of trusting you; it is because we love you" could be a good approach. Don't bask in words alone; remember a child can easily be tempted into disregarding your pleas; and let's not forget the aphorism about the forbidden fruit.
The middle path of supervision, combined with a screening of the software, is the best method. This allows parents to view the records of their child's activities on the net. It is good to instruct your child never to give out the full name, telephone number and e-mail address to strangers. What comes into your system is not as big a problem compared with what goes out.
The irony is that the Internet is one of the most startling inventions of modern times. Most of it is beneficial, fun and educative. Most material is also not harmful to children.
But parents must get more actively involved with theirs child's on-line experience. Place the computer in a more public place like the family room. Set time-limits for net use. Know as much about the technology as your child does.
Computer games are aplenty on the net's games sites. Many are genuine and some are not. A child who logs in here could be a recruited victim. The cyber criminal may offer free games and want to meet the child on this pretext. An innocent games freak is thus trapped. Worse, there are very few chances of detection. Internet is the harbour for illicit material that can be distributed en masse and across the frontiers by a click. Anyone can pose as anyone else on the net.
With the advent of the technological era, the responsibilities and pressures on parents have become much more. It is no longer an academic debate whether Internet is a boon or a bane. We, as parents, have to balance these two aspects in the interest of our children's future.
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