Safety net

Online schooling doesn’t have to come at the cost of cyber security. On Safer Internet Day, CE speaks to experts who suggest ways in which children can have a harmless online presence

Published: 09th February 2021 06:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2021 06:53 AM   |  A+A-

Illus ,Express

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Educational institutions may be opening up but for many, schools are still synonymous with screen time. While it has helped keep youngsters safe from the virus, it has exposed them to other threats. According to Gagan Jain, CEO of internet safety company Cybersafe Bangalore, students are now more vulnerable. “In the past few months we’ve heard of so many scenarios – either strangers enter Zoom classes and act inappropriately or third parties have been able to access people’s system, turning on their webcam, mic, etc,” explains Jain, who adds that with parents and children sharing devices, banking credentials could also get compromised if kids are not careful. 

Earlier, while parents could limit a child’s usage of devices, the same is impossible now. Jain suggests that if parents are giving their laptops to children, it is best to create a different user profile for them. “So even if a child accidentally falls prey to spyware or virus, this profile won’t contain sensitive information,” suggests Jain, adding that while no class is on, it is best to place a sticker on the webcam.

Children must also verify emails from all recipients and never opt for online payments. “We have many retail sites other than the usual Flipkart and Amazon. But sometimes, a hacker can tweak a company payment QR code to route it to his own QR code. It may look authentic but the money will go elsewhere,” he says. 

While there are platforms that allow a parent to track online activity, Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma believes such measures should be consensual. “If a child feels like there’s no trust, he may lash out,” says the professor of clinical psychology, who is also the coordinator of Shut (Service for Healthy Use of Technology) Clinic at NIMHANS. He continues, “Communicate better so that kids can build their internal locus of control.”

Agrees Dr Ali Khwaja, who has in the past conducted workshops on cyber safety for children. Khwaja, who is also the founder and chairman of Banjara Academy, believes policing is never the answer. “Kids with low self-esteem often tread from curiosity to addiction and fall prey to watching pornography or become victims of cyber bullying,” he explains. Better communication can go a long way. “Parents need to create a platform where children can discuss anything. They need to practise being non-judgemental. This way, the child knows they can trust the adult and not be reprimanded,” he says. 

Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software and change the log-in password frequently if you are attending online classes, using social networking sites, and research work. Teach your child to verify the address an email comes from. 
Secure your wi-fi network with a strong password 
Take note of fake profiles and report them to the law agencies at the right time
Pay attention to your child’s behaviour, sleeping patterns, etc. If anything seems amiss, discuss the matter with your child

Share and download illegal content, like movies, games, leaked question papers, etc. 
Give away too much personal data to ensure you maintain online privacy 
Engage with strangers, especially on social media sites 
Allow children to make online purchases without consulting a parent. And as far as possible, opt for Cash on Delivery


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