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Safer Internet Day: Internet and Children Safety

 

Internet and Children Safety: Relevance

  • GS 3: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

 

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Internet and Children Safety: Context

  • Safer Internet Day is celebrated on 8th February every year. In this article, we will analyze how internet has impacted the life of India’s children.

 

Internet and Children Safety: Key points

  • Various studies reveal that COVID pandemic has exposed children to the vulnerabilities of online surfing.
  • A study by CRY (Child Rights and You) conducted in 2020 revealed that close to half of the respondents (48 per cent) displayed some level of addiction to the Internet.
  • Similarly, as per a report by UK based Internet Watch Foundation, year 2021 was the worst on record for child sexual abuse online.
  • According to the latest NCRB (2020) data, there is a sharp increase (more than 400 per cent) in cyber-crimes committed against children, in comparison to the last year.
    • Among the 842 reported cases in 2020, 738 cases were about publishing or transmitting of materials depicting children in sexually explicit act.

 

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Reasons of internet addiction

  • Over-reliance on internet: Internet is increasingly becoming an integral part of children’s lives, as a major method for consumption of information and daily communication, and for exploring a wide range of interests.
  • Online risks: This over-reliance has provided a wide range of opportunities to children, along with exposing them to online risks like:
    • Content-related risks, where the child is the recipient of mass-produced content.
    • Contact-related risks, when they are victims of adult-initiated online interactions requiring the child to participate, possibly unwittingly or unwillingly.
    • Conduct-related risks, where the child becomes an actor or interactor within a wider peer-to-peer or networked interaction.
  • Covid-19 pandemic: Increased reliance on the Internet during the pandemic by younger children made them more vulnerable.
  • Economic hardship of families: Economic hardship of families and limited access to community support and services that are instrumental in addressing child sexual exploitation, may have rendered children more susceptible to being exploited online.

 

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How child addiction to internet can be managed?

  • Awareness and education: Awareness and educating the children—and their parents—about the risks associated with online world is the first pillar to ensure children’s rights.
  • Cohesion and synergy: However, awareness and education alone cannot resolve a sea of challenges the online world brought us to. There is a need for cohesion and synergic action taken by different forums for internet governance policy and child protection services.
  • Role of MWCD: Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has a crucial role to play, in facilitating the cohesion.
    • The Ministry has a key role to play in in addressing the gaps in legislative and policy measures on several cyber safety issues such as criminalisation of cyberbullying.
  • Supportive supervision and guidance: Ensuring supportive supervision and guidance from parents and caregivers at home s another important aspect in promoting opportunities and benefits, and curbing risks and harms among the adolescents.
  • Budgetary support: Though child protection budget in the Budget 2022 has marked an increase of 44 per cent, there is no clarity in terms of what portion of that will go to address online safety of children, since there is no such component under the child protection umbrella.

 

Internet and Children Safety: Way forward

  • All the concerned stakeholders including the government, the civil society and the parents need to make sure that children are well-protected from any online harm.

 

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