Lack of uniformity in cybersecurity-enabled devices, absence of actionable parental concern, and lack of awareness among children about cyberabuses are key drivers of rising cybercrimes involving children in India, cautioned Shamini Murugesh, Chief Mentor, WNS Cares Foundation and Creator of CyberSmart, a free-for-all, gamified portal for children, that teaches ways to stay safe online in a fun way.
Cyberstalking, cyberbullying, cyberharassment, child pornography, rape content targeting children in particular, distributed denial of service, phishing ransomware, defamation, grooming, hacking, identity theft, online child trafficking, online extortion, sexual harassment, and violation of privacy are some of the rapidly increasing threats children facing today, Ms. Murugesh said while exclusively deliberating on ‘Securing cyberspace for children’.
Responding to a query on to what extent the safety of Indian children was compromised under a pandemic-induced prolonged online exposure, she said since the pandemic there has been a multifold increase in cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. As per a McAfee study, some 85% of Indian children have been cyberbullied, sadly, highest globally. The top states reporting cyber-crimes against children in the country included Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Odisha. “Despite having stronger online safety education programmes, our children suffer more from cyberbullying, phishing, and other cyberattacks compared to their global counterparts,” she added. Corroborating the connection between the pandemic and cyberattacks on children, Ms. Murugesh said, there was a sharp rise of over 400% in cybercrimes (registered under the Information Technology Act) committed against children in 2020, in comparison to 2019, as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Also, over 90% of cybercrime cases against children included the publication or transmission of child sexual abuse material. The heightened use of social media platforms, mass migration to online classes, and the use of educational apps have all been identified as threats to children’s online safety, she explained. McAfee in its recent report titled, ‘Cyberbullying in Plain Sight’ stated that smartphone usage average among Indian children in the age group of 10 and 14 was 83%, 7% higher than the global average of 76%.