On the occasion of ‘Safer Internet Day’ (February 7), a plethora of media reports are bound to come out about online safety protocols in view of the dangers that target children in particular. In fact, a 2019 Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report stated that 15 percent of active internet users in India are between the ages of 5 and 11. This worries educationist and founder of the TreeHouse chain of Schools, Rajesh Bhatia and he points out that India also has the highest number of cyberbullying incidents worldwide.
He says, “The 2023 global McAfee Cyberbullying report says that 85% of Indian children are being cyberbullied. It is imperative that we create a safe online environment in an era where children as young as five years are active online. The pandemic also increased digital dependence among students because education switched to an online model. It is hence absolutely necessary to teach internet protocols to students and also create a safe space at home and in schools where they can, without any hesitation, discuss online issues they are facing.”
He concedes that we cannot prevent children from using the internet but can certainly provide them with guidelines to explore it in a safer manner. He adds, “So many children today have social media accounts and we need to educate them about privacy settings, not sharing personal details with strangers and filtering friend requests carefully. They must be taught how to deal with cyberbullying and to follow certain protocols while visiting sites. “He also suggests setting up child-friendly browsers in their systems or phones, to protect them from predators and dangerous sites.
“As an educator, I also endorse frequent awareness sessions at schools and at TreeHouse, we have been conducting interactive sessions about online safety pretty often, “concludes Bhatia.