Nothing ever goes away once it is posted online
The present generation is fortunate to have cheap and easy access to internet. They are
online more than ever, either for learning or for entertainment. This makes it easy for
predators and criminals to exploit them as adults lack resources to guide their children on
how to discover the world online with safety. Children have limitless opportunities,
through computers, smartphones and gaming consoles to learn, imagine and develop social
networks. Internet has proved to be a double-edged sword – access to knowledge and
entertainment on one hand and exposure to inappropriate content on the other. Children
are impressionable individuals who must be protected from cyberbullying, cyber grooming
and cyber sexual harassment.
Ironically, law making agencies and government policies are trying to create ways to get
‘back door access’ to communications to catch criminals and predators. There is no way to
create access to encrypted communications for the agencies without giving it to those who
will misuse it. Besides children using internet to socialise, parents too share private
information about their child’s interest, schedule, health and activities with educators,
friends and healthcare providers.
Banning end to end encryption is like not having doors, windows and curtains in one’s
living room and bedroom. Nothing is personal or secure. Weakening encryption will make
them more vulnerable than what they are. As parents, it’s our duty of care to demand the
strongest personal protective equipment to keep our children safe from harm – both in
real life and online.
Educators should carefully select which online learning tools to use. Students and parents
ought to take concrete steps to empower themselves to be safer when engaging in
remote learning online. Good cyber hygiene is using strong passwords, enabling multi-
factor authentication, changing default passwords on devices in the home to prevent
illicit access, exercising care in sites they visit, and choosing strongly encrypted services
for personal use.
Parents need to be alert and understand the most potential online dangers occur when
children do not look after their personal information. Lack of awareness can cause
invasion of privacy and result in identity theft. Setting technical parental control makes
sure that personal information is only seen by those they want to share with. Gaming
control does not give access to games with inappropriate content. Manual and
manufacturer’s website gives detailed information on content and control.
Staying safe while using social media
These guidelines will help make sure your child is safe while they are members of social
- Personal information like location, email address, phone number or date of birth should not be made public.
- Teaching the child not to use her real name is advisable.
- Block function stops unwanted contact, comments which is a safety tools children
and parents must be conscious of.
- Being careful with images and messages they post. Once images are posted online
they can be shared widely and are extremely difficult to remove.
- Win their trust so they can report every offensive, upsetting and unwanted
- Keeping a record of anything abusive or offensive they’ve received and reporting to
the site management if any.
- Make sure they are aware that breaking a copyright agreement is illegal.
- Accompany your child if she expresses desire to meet a friend made online.
- Inform them about online scams and offers which seem too good to be true.
- Encourage them not to get into any online discussions about sex as these tend to
attract potentially dangerous users.
- If you suspect someone may be grooming your child on a social networking site, or
your child is being stalked or harassed, you should contact the CHILDLINE 1098,
police or Child Welfare Committee.
- Encourage your child to inform you if they visited an adult website accidentally. The
history can be erased and site blocked.
- Teach them not to use offensive and abusive language online.
- Explain that unknown file should not be downloaded.
- Children should be aware of child friendly search engines which filter out
inappropriate internet sites.
- Find out about the different games that are played by your child. Be curious about
what apps your child is using. Let them teach you how it works.
- Your child is learning from you. Set a positive example – set screen time boundaries
for yourself, too, and make sure your child sees that you are polite and kind to
others – both face to face and online.
Internet safety begins at home, if done right, internet use among children can increase
learning opportunities and build digital skills. “We often hear so much about the risks
associated with children using the internet, but less about how we can build their online
resilience and digital skills, we should help children navigate, how to use the internet in
the same way we help teach children how to cross the road. “
Dr Priscilla Idele, Deputy Director at the UNICEF Office of Research in Florence, Italy