The kids are online!

Tags: Knowledge
In many ways technology has made children and teenagers vulnerable in ways they weren’t just a decade or so back. Cybercrime especially targeted at children is a huge concern for parents and guardians, as is the vast amount of objectionable content floating about on the Internet.

A McAfee study, Secret Lives of Indian Teens, last year found that two-thirds had a bad experience after finding new friends online. In another study of Indian pre-teens, it was found that over a third of the surveyed kids have either shared information about themselves on Facebook and spoken to strangers. It was also found that kids are reluctant to report incidences of cyber bullying to parents.

Rules for grown-ups

But quoting figures doesn’t really get us anywhere. What can we, as adults, do to mitigate cybercrime against children? First, we must accept that it is not “cute” if our kids know more about computers than us. We wouldn’t send our kids out to play in a strange, unknown place, would we? The same logic applies to the web. So, if your children access the WWW, it’s time to buy that Dummies book, take a crash course, ask for help from a tech-savvy friend — in short, find a way to educate yourself on it.

It is never advisable to allow young children unfettered access to the net. Con artists and cyber criminals, including paedophiles, have sophisticated ways of winning over confidences. You might want to ensure that your computer is kept in a “public” place in your house or even install parental control software like K9 and Microsoft Family Safety. Computers, tablets and smartphones all come with parental control settings. It is a good idea to acquaint oneself of these.

There’s lots of help available online. For instance, Common Sense Media, a US-based non-profit organisation, is a well-regarded resource for information on media and technology for kids. On their website, Commonsensemedia.org, aimed at parents, teachers and librarians, they review apps, games, movies, websites, TV programmes and music for children aged 2 to 17. This is a great resource to find out if that game your youngsters can’t stop playing is age-appropriate or even to find recommendations of good apps and websites.

Rules for kids

Kids and teens who go online need to protect themselves by adhering to some simple rules. Such as:

•Don’t give out your full name, address, date of birth, phone/mobile number, school and any other personal information on chats, forums or social networking sites like Facebook. Other people could use it to guess your password or reset your password.

•Never ever share your password with anyone. Not even your best friends.

•If something bad happens, then don’t respond, react or panic. Instead, block that person, leave the website, log out or even turn off your computer. And tell a grown-up immediately.

•Be wary of new ‘friends’ on your chat list, forums, Facebook and so on, especially if they appear too nice or ask too many questions about you and your life.

•Never accept gifts from people you’ve met online, that is, people you don’t know in real life. They could be offering you a gift just to find out where you live.

•Never ever make plans to meet anyone you got to know online. Remember, it is very easy to lie about who you are on the internet. Someone who pretends to be a 10-year-old boy or girl could easily be a kidnapper. If you are convinced about your internet friend and really, really want to meet them, you must discuss it with your parents or other grown-ups first.

(The author is a

personal tech writer)

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