‘’You can click, but you can’t hide,’’ was the take-home message for the students of Carmel Girls Higher Secondary School on Monday when a seminar on cyber crimes against children was held at the school.
The awareness programme on cyber crimes and child protection for school children, titled ‘On Guard’, was jointly organised by the Swasthi Charitable Foundation and The New Indian Express.
Explaining the need for such a seminar, P H Kurian, Principal Secretary (IT), said: “As you utilise the opportunities provided by the Internet, which is the biggest technological leveller, you must also be aware of the other side.”
As part of the awareness programme, N Vinayakumaran Nair, AC, Hi-Tech Crime Enquiry Cell, interacted with the students for well over an hour, giving them an insight into the invisible world of cyber crime.
The now-indispensable Internet, Nair informed them, was attractive to criminals because they don’t need physical contact to harass their victims and they find it easy to hide within the cyber world.
“It is easy for them to harass using emails, sending threatening text messages and so on,” said Nair. “The fact that there is no proper cyberspace legislation also works to their advantage.”
A social network, he informed them, may be a place for keeping up with friends, but it was also a place for cyber crimes. (Nearly all the students present in the hall had raised their hands when asked how many were active on Facebook).
Warning them against ‘adding’ unknown friends, Nair said: “At any given time, there are over 50,000 sexual predators online. One in five children have received sexual solicitation messages. It is easy to fall into their traps.”
Chat rooms can easily become ‘’cheat rooms,’’ where conversations with strangers can quickly become intimate and young girls may be easily swayed by the pampering words thrown at them, Nair said. “Don’t believe anyone online - their profiles might be fake,” he cautioned the students. “If someone tries to isolate you from your family and friends, or turn you against your parents or make you keep secrets, these are all warning signs.”
Stressing the importance of reporting cases of harassment to the persons concerned on time, Nair shared with the students a case he had handled, where a teenaged girl in the city had been a victim of a cyber crime. “She had established friendship with a person talking to him over her cellphone. It carried on for over a year and soon it became so that she couldn’t do anything without this guy’s permission,” Nair recalled. “It took us nine months to nab the person. He had nine SIM cards, none of which was in his name. When we finally caught up with him, it turned out he was a 36-year-old man with two kids,” he said.