Protecting Children from Cyber Abuses

Internet safety for children has also become a rising concern all around the world. Every day we hear and watch some sort of disturbing news regarding children who fall victims to dangerous predators, who have found a new and easy way of preying on their victims by the use of the Internet from the convenience of their homes. Similar to other technological innovations, World Wide Web has many great advantageous. It opens a world of possibilities for children exposing them to an ocean of knowledge and information. Despite the benefits of the Internet such as staying connected with loved ones through social networking sites, learning/gaining knowledge, and doing school work; unfortunately it also can make children more susceptible to on-line threats because it also has become a tool in hands of on-line criminals. In such a beneficial yet unsafe and risky environment, parents must be equipped with useful and adequate means to detect early on signs of their children being at risk and minimize and prevent the chances of on-line exploiters from victimizing their children. With Internet connectivity and availability in almost every home, proper parenting becomes essential for on-line safety of children.

If we go through experience we may come across various issues which happened with children while being engaged in  online medium. During the lockdown the children were unable to attend the classes at school and also in the tuition centers. So teachers decided to organize online classes through zoom app, webinar and webex so that the students don’t suffer and continue their studies from their respective home. It was found in that in early stage the students showed keen interest while attending online classes but later they got this opportunity to involve them in playing online games and also being engaged with other social media sites which becomes the regular habit. What I have observed while having interaction with few parents which they have revealed that the social media has totally changed the life of their wards and also it has badly impacted on their mental and physical health. Furthermore, the parents also have revealed that their wards are less concerned to studies while more being in touch with cyber media it shows that how much social media has badly impacted on children day to day life because of their engagement in online medium.

Social media has advantages as well as disadvantages, but it depends upon the parents how they educate and also regularly monitor their children before they are given the opportunity for online engagement. The parents are primary concern while injecting their children with pros and cons of everything. Apart from this we need to aware our children the online incidence and share some abuse related cases with them so that they can be prevented from any harmful things and from abuses which happen through online engagement.

Areas where Cyber abuses can be happen

There are many areas where children are being abused through online medium like,

  • Playing online gaming as it is the trend of making easy money via gambling online among children and also mature users, also the users used to share the Bank details and revealing the identity which will ultimately be used against the user.
  • While being engaged in the social sites parents should know about digital footprints as every activity in online medium as soon as we post anything on the internet leaves a trail of presence on the internet. There is also excessive information online, some of which may be fake. Actually it is inherent problem of anonymity and fake identity on social networks e. g. some people pretending to be the age of those children who are engaging in online medium actually may be much older. Initially they try to build friendly terms with the users which later they used to post nasty things/pictures which may damage self-respect of users.
  • One more online abuse is Cyber Bullying. Cyber Bullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature and it is extremely uncomfortable, lonely and feeling disturbing through the cyber medium online like, computers, mobiles, tablets etc.
  • Another important area is Privacy. In this mode we need to keep in mind that all forms of digital communications can be forwarded, shared, altered and printed. Even if we try to deleting them they can still sometimes last forever are called digital footprints.
  • Initially perpetrators try to groom children in frank and friendly manners, subsequently they fish the opportunity by posting nasty things while sending pictures, videos, text messages etc. in the same way they also use to develop virtual friendship with children and they try to convince them for physical contact which later turns abusive.

The idea of safety and security of children (Child Safeguarding) through online medium should be primary concern of GOs and NGOs while sensitizing the parents about online abuses and preventive measures. The way to achieve this may include the responsibility of Government, Parents, Teachers, child right practitioners, counselors, social workers and other stakeholders. The special programs of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) should be designed to develop a mechanism where the potential risks can be understood, identified and mitigation plan can also be developed by doing Risk Mapping and Assessment for Online abuses and prevention.  School-based Cyber Child Safety Programs with extensive and long-term effects can also prove helpful in eliminating this menace of cyber child abuses in J&K. In this circumstance, the long lasting programs on prevention of Cyber Child Abuses must be framed in School whereas the Training on Trainers (TOT) should be included in the curriculum. The parents must also be included in the training programmes while taking preventive steps before engaging their children in online medium as the children are citizens and potential future of nation, and with respect to these roles, it is appropriate to provide them proper awareness on dos and don’ts of cyber child protection and also the awareness on pros and cons must be inculcated. In particular, information aimed at limiting harm should be appropriately targeted at children. In this case, mass media can prove very useful as it can help in promoting public sensitization and aware the general public of the dire consequences of cyber child abuse. The risks to children are not from aliens but from the known. Studies have proved that children are mostly abused by those who are known to them, people on whom children trust or depend upon. In this context, it is very important that we undertake a stakeholder mapping and devise our plans accordingly.

Azhar Hussain Shah is Senior Consultant Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action Global Inter Agency USA