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Posted at: Oct 6, 2018, 12:13 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2018, 12:13 AM (IST)HERE IS YOUR GUIDE TO THE ONLINE SAFETY OF CHILDREN

Under parental guidance

Sangeet Toor

What do you tell your child who wants to ride a bike out in the streets? ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ or ‘avoid the area near the highway’ or ‘never go under the bridge’. The instructions and precautions are abundant when it comes to your child exploring the world around him safely.

What happens when children want to explore the virtual world? The perils lurk right on the devices they use. Blue Whale unleashed fear among parents last year, this year it is the Momo Challenge. The virtual world is parallel to the real one. To keep children safe online, the parents need to keep themselves abreast of the technological advances and then educate the child so as to enable him to make safer decisions.

Know what is out there:

Children, especially teens, get hooked to the pretty offerings of the Internet. For a parent, it is important to know what is in ‘fashion’ for the children.

Social media: Ubiquitous is one word to describe it. Cyber bullying is a product of social media. From grandparents to grandchildren social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter has touched upon humans, most of whom don’t understand privacy and security. Children are particularly exposed since cyber bullying has its roots in social media. A parent must know what to share online to educate the child about the same.

Games: Game applications are right there on the screen in hand. These applications collect data, have security holes and present a bigger risk for the child. Geo location sharing happens stealthily on such apps and it is dangerous that strangers know a child’s location.

Messaging: WhatsApp has taken everyone in its fold. Before even WhatsApp could know what its platform was used as, the damage was done. A child is not only exposed to violence on the messaging apps but is a trusted medium for the hoaxes to thrive. Blue Whale and Momo Challenge, which are touted as online games but are most likely hoaxes, target children.

Technology is a blessing if used with the right intent for the right purpose. People found age-old friends on Facebook. Otherwise, it was unimaginable that a person you went to school with in the seventies would find you from another corner of the world. The information children can get and the kind of learning they can do on Internet was unfathomable just a decade ago. The world has shrunk to a global tech village and ignorance can be devastating. So, know the rights and wrongs of this village, hold your child’s hand today, teach him the healthy Internet habits, and let him get the best of the both worlds.

Take control

Befriend them: It is of utmost importance that a child is taught about the trusted entities in their lives. Teens might befriend their whole class on Facebook or strangers with fake identities.

Share responsibility: Children and teens are equally aligned to share pictures of all sorts online. Educate your child about the acceptable content meant for online sharing.

Monitor: Monitor does not mean that a parent stalks the child online all the time. Monitoring is a good way to know who are your child’s friends online and what do they share with each other. If the child knows that his virtual life is also under your eye, he will think before putting himself or others at risk. A good way to monitor your child is to join the same networks.

Set the ground rules: Establish a charging station in the common room of your home. It could be the lobby or the living room. Ask all the family members (including you) to leave their phones to charge in the common area before hitting the bed. The idea is to keep the bedrooms free of Internet browsing, especially at night.

No hidden screens: If your child is using the laptop to do research for homework, ask him to keep the study room’s door open. Walk in on him once or twice. It will rule out the possibility of your child wandering into the remote and dark corners of Internet.

Don’t enable: There is age limit on sign-up eligibility on social networks and mobile apps. The age limit is set keeping in mind the dangers posed to the children. Never lie on your child’s behalf. Understand the concept of age limit and have a conversation with your child on the why-nots.

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