Find a Safe Place in Cyberspace

Easy Parenting

The internet has changed the way we live, personally and professionally. The beauty of this infinite source of knowledge is that it opens doors of imagination to a newer world. However, children must be empowered with the necessary skills that will keep them safe online. Sneha Bagdiya shares some dos and don’ts for connecting online.

Age restrictions must be enforced by parents and willingly followed by children: Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter have an age restriction of 13 years and for a good reason. But many kids lie about their age, surprisingly with parents’ consent. Parental controls and age restrictions are meant to protect children from all kinds of offenders. Elders ought to instil netiquette for their children’s safety.

Keep the content private: Online connectivity has become the need of the hour and social networking has progressed dramatically. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Tiktok and Snapchat are a rage amongst people to share ideas, thoughts and even feelings. When families instantly share pictures of their accomplishments socially, children follow the instant style. It may help in building selfesteem and self-appreciation, but the uglier side is, it’s never enough. Children will end up sharing too much of their personal space. There exists a strange world behind the screen of people you have never seen. It’s best to be safe than sorry.

Never add a stranger to your friend list: It is scary to note that more than 70% of teens have accepted every friend request they have received. Sadly, 40% of kids connect with online strangers. Utmost caution must be taken when someone you don’t know approaches you on social media. If found unsafe, block the person immediately and report.

Be aware of catfishing: The term is used for a person who sets up a false profile and pretends to be someone else. People have no idea whom they are talking to as the person pretends to be someone of similar interest and age.

Avoid using your full name as a screen name:It is a good practice to use a pseudo (fake) name especially in chat rooms where you interact with people, most of whom you don’t know. Full names can make it easy for imposters to locate you, find you online and then contact you.

Never update location: This is a strict NO. Also, utmost care must be taken while uploading a profile picture; it should not flaunt personal spaces and reveal hangouts or residence images.

Use gadgets in a common area: Teenagers must develop the habit of using their gadgets in common areas and not bedrooms. This prevents logging onto inappropriate content.

Choose and use passwords wisely: Do not share passwords with friends. Change passwords regularly and make sure they are strong so that they can’t be cracked very easily. Also, never reuse the same password or pattern for every website.

Speak up if you have been a victim:Cyber-bullying is similar to real-life bullying, except that gadgets become the tool. Spreading rumours on sites or text messages and calls from strangers can happen to any child or adult. It is not your fault if you become a victim. If you come across a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, notify an elder and let them handle it and safeguard you. Report these matters to cyber cells.

Avoid connecting to hot-spots: Though tempting, it is totally unsafe to connect to a hotspot because all the data that flows through the network can be monitored and the device, hacked.

Don’t use personal e-mails in a cybercafe or on someone else’s computer: Avoid using your e-mail and social networking websites on other’s smartphones or laptops. All machines maintain logs, usernames, passwords and everything typed. And always log out, no matter where you logged in.

Check what you download: Scammers constantly try to trick people into downloading apps that may steal your data. Always check the developer and permissions before downloading anything and always download from a trusted source.

Never respond to anyone asking for money:Never do this out of fear or for friendship.

Avoid questionnaires for free giveaways:Quizzes can be tempting but they can be a trick and a scam to victimise. Many online activities require personally identifiable information (PII) such as full name, date of birth and other vital details that shouldn’t be given out. Don’t open e-mails or links without learning who the sender is. Links can run codes that can grant access to your devices.

Always remember, the cyberworld is not your home, but an entryway of your home. Don’t let smartphones make you dumb. Use kid-friendly search engines like Kiddle.

Sneha Viresh Bagdiya is a cybercrime investigator, cyber evidence analyst, acclaimed writer and social activist.