Education

Safety first

We need to teach our children to stay safe online   | Photo Credit: Freepik

With the entire world being practically shut down because of the Coronavirus pandemic since early 2020, most people ended up spending more of their lives online. Reports suggest, in 2020, India had nearly 700 million Internet users across the country.

Getting comfortable with working from home, seeking entertainment on streaming services, learning new skills online, indulging in online shopping, the lockdown made us adapt to changes which we never thought was possible.

Come 2021 and we find ourselves thriving on the opportunities the Internet has to offer. However, like everything else, this too has its share of disadvantages. Online safety has become a matter of great concern, across the globe, especially given the number of younger people who are now using the Internet.

Threats

The Internet has truly transformed how young people learn, socialise and communicate today, but the pressure to share intimate images, rising cases of cyberbullying and cyber scams, exposure to content that may promote self-harm, anorexia etc., make the youth more vulnerable and puts them at a greater risk.

The majority of young people today use smartphones for everything. Numerous apps are downloaded every day, thereby exposing sensitive personal information. With the boom in online shopping, financial information is knowingly or unknowingly shared to make online payments and thereby increasing the risk of sharing sensitive data.

Students, especially those in college, rely heavily on the Internet for their projects. Every time they open a link, pop-ups and links to unsafe websites appear. Clicking on these can lead to malware that can damage their devices and steal critical personal information.

Moreover, online scams in the form of contests, discounts, and free goodies, trick youngsters into sharing personal information, thereby leading to a risk of identity theft.

Apart from this, online grooming, cyberbullying and peer pressure, online social abuse and exploitation, and fatal online challenges such as the Blue Whale Challenge, which claimed over hundred lives across the world, are constant threats.

Safe Internet Day (February 9) offers a great opportunity to empower young people and make the Internet a safer and better place. Leaders, mentors, educationists, parents and guardians need to intervene and get involved.

What we can do

The safety of our children is our responsibility and we need to talk to them about safe Internet use, online dangers and threats, and equip them with the necessary skills and competencies.

Encourage children to check the reliability and credibility of online websites, keep their social media accounts private and avoid adding unsavoury people to their friend list can make a difference.

Students should know the importance of privacy and that it is ‘not okay’ to share their pictures with strangers or be harassed, bullied or humiliated online.

The need of the hour is to inculcate good online habits among the youth and develop their digital intelligence and socio-emotional skills. This Safe Internet Day, let us help them recognise online threats and safeguard themselves against it.

The writer is MD, Aakash Educational Services Limited.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 5:31:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/with-people-depending-on-the-internet-more-than-ever-before-safe-internet-day-february-9-has-become-even-more-important/article33766771.ece

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