Children are a curious bunch, the more you tell them to stay off something–especially for their own safety–the more they are interested and attracted to explore
it. While parents are as is worried about the unsafe and inappropriate images their children may stumble upon once they start using the Internet; the series of sinister games rampant online make the Internet an even darker place to be, thanks to its unrestricted nature.
Unsettling ‘games’ online such as the infamous Blue Whale Challenge–which took over a hundred lives–are known to target the vulnerable and weak kids, much to the horror of parents.
To make matters worse, a fresh set of data revealed by the national child helpline unveiled an ominous finding that online abuse of kids is on the rise. The predators prey on those who are lonely, secluded and already very disturbed; hence are more susceptible to these life-threatening ‘games.’
What does the data say?
The national child helpline–1098–received 39 calls from distressed children seeking help. The unsettling link that joined all the 39 calls was the infamous Blue Whale Game.
Majority of the children called up to seek help as they were entrapped by the terrible fear of the game, while some called up to inquire about the Blue Whale Challenge. A few kids were so perturbed and disturbed by the game that they required a physical intervention.
How can parents keep their kids safe online?
1. Use Cyber Security
Kavita Mungi, a noted psychologist told TOI that it is extremely important that parents installed cyber security to monitor their children’s activity. Furthermore, it is crucial to have a control over all their devices–be it a laptop, tablet and cell phone–that they use to access the net. Highlighting why it is of utmost importance to use parental control software, she says, “It is crucial to monitor your child’s Internet activities to make sure they do not end up at the nasty side of the Internet. ”
2. Do not hand over digital devices to kids
It is often observed that kids, right from a very young age are given laptops, tablets and mobile phone by their parents and their screentime is highly unmonitored.
While parents may find it very convenient to let their children use cell phones while they do their daily chores, undisturbed, this browsing without the supervision of adults isvery dangerous, as it exposes kids to all sorts of inappropriate websites links, images and even bullies.
According to Mungi, there should be a certain age limit where kids should not use cell phones to play games offline; let alone use to access the Internet.
She says, “The ideal time to give smartphones and access to digital devices is when the child has reached his secondary school–mostly 9th or 10th grade. Providing access anytime before this is exposing children unnecessarily to the dark side of the Internet ”
3. Create awareness amongst children
Before you provide access to anything that involves the Internet, it is vital that you school them regarding online safety–educate early and often.
Children at the age of five and six are the most vulnerable to strangers–both on the Internet and otherwise– influencing them in a negative manner. Additionally, you also need to tell them the difference between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’, in a very lucid manner.
“Parents need to be very open with their children regarding cyber abuse.
One way that they can do it very effectively is by attending workshops that explain cyber safety and online abuse with their kids,” Mungi adds.
Psychologist Gaurav Gera, further adds, “Adults should be provided psychoeducation about technology and the nitty-gritty details regarding online abuse.”
4. Schools need to make it a part of their curriculum
While mothers and fathers, belonging to the higher and upper-class strata of the society, may be aware of the rampant bullying that takes place online and know the ways to shield their teens from the same, it is the lower and middle-class income group that may not necessarily be exposed to the right kind of information.
Hence, in this situation where parents are themselves unaware of the ramifications of the online world, it is the school that needs to step up and educate both students and their parents.
5. Children imitate their parents
According to Gaurav Deka, “Adults are themselves so hooked on their cell phones and other digital devices, all the time, that it leaves no choice for their teens to do anything else but mimic their actions. It is the classic case of monkey see, monkey do.”
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