KIRTI AGARWAL PASBOLA
The Internet is the boon of this century. With just a click we can access information on any topic, connect with people across the globe through social networking sites, emails, chats, blogs as well as get entertained through online games, songs, videos, films.
The world however, has both good and evil. Therefore, just as we protect our children from evil in the real world, we need to protect our children from the dangers of the virtual world as well.
In August 2007, Adnan Patrawala(16), son of a Mumbai businessman, was kidnapped for ransom and then killed by men who had befriended him on the Internet. So, parents should not feel that their child is safe since he is at home and on his computer. Social networking sites allow strangers to peek into our lives.
If we communicate and guide our children, they can enjoy and benefit from all the good the Internet has to offer without endangering themselves.
The five main dangers on the Internet that the child should be aware of are —
1. Data Theft: The fraudster steals identifying data, name, addresses, and financial details from unsuspecting victims through ‘phishing’. They impersonate a business through bogus emails and web sites, to trick you into giving out your personal information and then use it for personal gain. Computer criminals use data to spy on individuals, blackmail, hijack accounts (including bank accounts), spread rumours and operate under victim’s identity.
a. Use, long hard to guess passwords with numbers, letters and characters.
b. Never disclose your password to anyone, even friends.
c. Use virtual keypads to log into bank accounts.
d. Do not open sites through links but with their legitimate web address.
2. Malicious Software: Or Malware used to annoy, destroy or exploit. These include viruses, key logging software, adware, spyware, viruses. Once downloaded by unsuspecting victim on the system, gives unauthorised control of the user’s computer to the attacker. Criminals use software which captures every keystroke the user types.
a. Be extremely careful when downloading links.
b. Never click on unsolicited mails.
c. Restrain from clicking YES buttons without reading data carefully.
d. Install antivirus software.
3. Inappropriate Content: Children can get exposed to pornography, content focused on violence and hate.
a. Install Internet ‘Nanny’- software
b. Install computer in public area and not in your child’s bedroom. Computer screen should be easily visible.
4. Cyber Bullying: Includes threats, gossips and insults that are spread via emails,
instant messaging, social networking sites, and forums or through community oriented online games.
a. Report to adults
b. Save evidence
c. Report to the bullies’ parents, school authorities, police depending on the severity.
5. Predators: This is a parent’s worst WEB nightmare when an adult criminal posing to be youngster, establishes a close relationship with an unsuspecting minor through various techniques. They take their time in befriending the child in the virtual world through social networking sites and chat rooms, so that they can use the personal information and clues collected in the virtual worlds to lure, blackmail, abuse and even kidnap children in the real world.
a. Stay private online.
b. Do not visit chat rooms or whisper areas.
c. Never actually meet a person you befriend online.
Other useful tips for your child’s safety
1. Develop Trust: Children should be made to realise that by putting safeguards and monitoring you are only helping them
2. Talk: To the children regarding the potential online dangers and sexual predators. Children should know that whatever they are told online by others may not be true.
3. Install Internet Nanny: Download and install ‘Internet Nanny’ – software which blocks access to objectionable sites not meant for children. Install the software on your child’s iPhone , iPod and iPad also. The software can be downloaded from the net. I recommend the free software K9 available on www.k9webprotection.com.
4. Make Rules: For internet surfing and paste them near the monitors so that children are reminded of the same, whenever they are surfing.
Rules should include —
a. Follow age limits recommended by social networking sites. Most sites do not allow children below 13 years to become users. If your child is underage, then do not allow him to open an account.
b. Do not accept friend requests from strangers.
c. Timing and duration for net surfing should be clearly defined and agreed upon.
d. Never post personal information — name, address, telephone number, and school name. Do not post, when and where you will be going for
e. Inform adults if you come across any information on the Internet that makes them uncomfortable or scared.
f. Never upload your
photographs without parents’ permission.
g. Never respond to messages and emails that make you uncomfortable, frightened or are from strangers.
h. Appropriate Internet sites for visit should be decided mutually by parent and child.
i. Never download pictures from an unknown source.
5. Chat Rooms: Young children should not be allowed to use chat rooms. Older children should use only well monitored chat rooms. They should never leave the public area of the chat room to have a private one-to-one chat with anybody. These are called ‘whisper’ areas.
6. Have a Family Email Address: Children should use a family email address and not a private one. Even after they get older, their ‘email address’ can reside in your account.
7. Monitor: Your child’s access to all live electronic communications, such as chat rooms, instant messaging and email.
8. Install Monitoring Software: Which will monitor the online activities of your child. The software follows and records your child’s every keystroke.
9. Communicate and be Approachable: Even after following the above tips, you may not be able to shield children completely from pornography which they may stumble upon on the Internet. Rather than pretending it is not there, explain to them that some adults pay money to see pictures of other adults naked. Tell your child that you expect him to leave the site, turn off the computer and tell you about it if he comes across such a site.
Explain them the damaging effects of pornography.
Remember, talking about sex, in a matter of fact way, takes away the thrill of mystery and discovery that surrounds the topic and gives a message to your child that you are
10. If your child does come across an online predator, then do not blame him. The entire responsibility is of the offender. Approach the police.
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