Dimple Sarma

Gone are the days when children used to play with their friends in parks. Nowadays, online classes, virtual friendships, etc., are making a new space in their lives. We can’t deny the importance of the internet and gadgets, but, we should be aware of its uses and misuses. There are rising cases of cyber grooming, bullying, sexual harassment, etc., on the internet. Not only adults, children too are getting busy on their smartphones. Internet access from their mobile phones opens a whole wide world for them – where anyone can connect with them without the knowledge of any elders. Until and unless children themselves don’t understand the negative side of the internet, they won’t realise what is right and what is wrong for them. So, parents/guardians must regularise a child’s internet usage.

One of the most dangerous things on the internet for children is cyber grooming. Children often don’t know how slowly they are falling prey to internet predators. By opening an account on social media, most of us, especially teenagers, enjoy the colourful virtual world which is filled with millions of people. Cyber grooming is a trap where a predator targets children’s profiles for their personal gain, for sexual intention, to be precise. After becoming friends with their target profiles, the predators establish an emotional bonding with them. Using many tricks, they earn the child’s trust in such a way that the child agrees to meet them personally. These groomers often observe young children’s accounts by using fake accounts. They chat with the child, promising gifts and goodies. And, once they gain the child’s trust, the predators begin their sinister mission. Often, they request the child for personal photographs. Later, the predator blackmails the child that they will reveal all those chats and photographs to their family if they refuse to listen to them.

Elders should be vigilant of what the children are doing online – how much time they are spending on gadgets, internet consumption, etc. The first step of interacting with the child is to make them understand about the internet. Adults should spend some time together with the child on the internet to know what the child is looking for, and then, slowly make them understand about inappropriate online content. This way, one can teach them about the online risks. And, there can be a clear communication between the parents/guardians and the children. Children can be emotionally secure with the thought that they can approach their parents or any elder at home whenever needed.

Elders can follow the given steps to check the children’s online activities:

* Remember to discuss things over with the child. Parents can force or compel their child to avoid the internet, but if the parent makes them understand about the negative side of the internet, the child will eventually follow their advice.

* Keep the passwords of their apps or devices.

* It is illegal for a child to open any social media account below a certain age. Elders must ensure that the child does not open any social media account.

* Limit or fix the time for the child’s online activities.

* Browse the history of the sites they frequently visit.

* Keep an eye that they don’t post any photographs and personal information online.

Not only parents or guardians, but teachers should also make their students understand about the basic safety rules during their online classes. It is good to give them a reminder every now and then about the usage of the internet. The internet can be a boon or bane, depending on the way it is used. We need to adopt this new normal but with precautions.

([email protected])