Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Faceless Enemy

A survey conducted by Norton, an anti-malware software brand, says 52% of the children in India are victims of cyber crimes, online negative solutions including; gaming, watching porn videos, creative piracy and cyber bullying. Unfortunately, almost 84% of the parents in India said they did not think their children were misusing the internet. 70% of the children surveyed also mentioned that they tried to reach out to the parents and failed to make them empathise with the negative effects social media and other internet applications had on their minds.
Like it or not, our world, though much better for all our technological advancements, is facing an all new threat. Even now, as we push forward with new technological advantages, we are exposing ourselves to a faceless enemy who is not limited or restricted by space or time, but by network availability. Countries and Companies have Policies and Guidelines to guide persons’ behaviors and attitudes towards cyber-security and proper digital citizenship.  Still even they lose access to important files, have people hacking and stealing their digital data or even their complete network.  
So we as parents cannot stay away from this faceless enemy and wait for taking an action when our children fall prey to the internet and social media. A solution must be figured out now.  It is imperative that we take a proactive approach to dealing with this modern threat. In today’s column I will deal with the actions parents of adolescent children need to take to ensure correct use of social media and other digital applications. I will cover the actions required for other age groups in my subsequent articles.

In case of adolescent children, being observant doesn’t mean trespassing into their private space and doubting each and every action of theirs. Instead it means having full faith in the emotional stability of your children. Once you start observing them closely, you will be able to detect the signs of them being prey to any negative solutions on internet. 

But, if you observe these signs, do not jump to conclusions and start shouting on them or scolding them. Talk to them peacefully and assure them that they will not be punished if they reveal the truth. The issue can be sorted out sooner if the child can open up to you or any close sibling or relatives.

Some of the most prominent signs of your child being abused/abusing the internet in general or social media in particular are
    1.       Shows low self-esteem,
    2.      Makes excuses to stay absent from school or other classes
    3.      Avoids social events
    4.      Wants to remain in isolation
    5.      Loses weight, appetite to eat
    6.      Becomes too cautious about physical appearance, clothing and make-up
    7.      Ready to change appearance to try to fit in a peer group
    8.      Dresses inappropriately to hide marks of physical abuse or self-harm
    9.      Has frequent mood swings such as anger, crying spells, withdrawal
   10.   Lost in thoughts most of the times

Steps which you can take to protect your child from harming themselves 

.         1.      Be ready to talk to the child
      2.      Trust them
      3.      Emphasise and Assure digital safety at all costs
      4.      Respect their privacy
      5.      Encourage safe internet usage in your presence/absence
      6.      Make them aware of passwords, Anti-virus software and other digital safety measures.
      7.      Do not keep secrets within the family and encourage them too to share their password only with you/the family.
      8.      Mutually decide and limit the time spent on internet/ other digital devices.
      9.       Educate them about what actually is misuse of the internet or what can be the side effects of over- use of any technology.
    10.   Spend some time together digitally with your children and ensure inculcating the right cyber behaviour.

Not all children will show the same signs. Also, not all the steps enlisted here will lead to success. 

But one thing that will help you always is to remember that you are the parent and the captain of the ship when it comes to anything related to your family. 

Hence do not make excuses about your digital handicaps and try to learn how to access their accounts.  In olden days, the pen was considered to be mightier than the sword. Some of us felt, the gun is mightier than the pen, but the true king of the hill these days is the computer keyboard and the hacker behind it manipulating all those ones and zeroes to do his bidding.  In near future, the keyboard would be the single mightiest weapon on our beloved planet. We as parents need to equip ourselves with the right cyber behaviour so that we guard our children against the faceless Enemy. The sooner we accept it, the better equipped we would be to assist our children.
in case you feel the need at any times.
 Remember Parenting Pays Always!

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