For the past two years, the pandemic has changed the status quo of education all over the world. Teachers and students had to adapt to online classes instead of learning in classrooms or ThinkRooms in Chrysalis schools. They spend way more time in front of their laptops than they usually do. Most adults have an idea of how to use the internet safely and responsibly. Kids on the other hand don't have a learning gap when it comes to technology. But, they are very new to the world of the internet. So, it is up to adults to teach them how to use cyberspace safely and warn them about the anonymous dangers lurking on the web.
A lot of multinational corporations are trying to make the online world kid-friendly. Google has a game called ‘Interland’ where kids can play and learn about the dangers of the internet. It is very immersive and presents real-life situations as quests so that kids know the right thing to do when the scenario happens to them. It also teaches them how to handle cyberbullies, recognize scams and fake accounts, secure their privacy, and encourages kids to talk to adults when something seems unsafe.
Apart from this Google has a lot of features like SafeSearch which filters out inappropriate search results when kids are surfing and YouTube Kids which is a platform for kids to watch educational or entertaining videos but under parental supervision. Parents can control what videos kids can see, their watch history, and can even block videos they don’t want their kids to watch, even if it is kid-safe. Parents can also manage multiple kids’ profiles with one account. This will eliminate the need to link kids’ email accounts with YouTube.
Parents can also monitor the kid’s screen time on laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. There are some basic settings in Android and iPhone like switching off a kid’s phone during sleep time or screen lock after a few hours. There are also a lot of other software like KidLogger, Qustodio, and Kaspersky Safe Kids which can be used to monitor a kid's location, calls and texts, and keystrokes. These software has free and paid versions and is available on all operating systems like Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.
Schools can help make the online environment safe for kids too. They can conduct seminars on how to use the internet safely or at least talk to kids about the importance of cybersafety and tips to secure themselves in a world of faceless people. They can also send emails about this to parents and give them tips on how to protect their kids on the web. Parents can create a safe space for kids so that kids feel confident enough to tell them when something is wrong. Instead of rebuking them, if they respond in a helpful and encouraging manner, kids will open up to them and they will know how to handle the situation the next time it arises.
One in ten adolescents are cyberbullied in India and this number only includes the reported cases. More than half the cases are unreported and the rates have been increasing progressively. This affects the kids in real life too and the problem cannot be solved by switching off a button. Most kids don’t realize that they’re being cyberbullied until they are adults. It is very common but they don’t know how to talk about it because there is not enough awareness of it among kids. Prevention really is better than cure in this case. Sometimes, it is even the only option.
Internet is a boon and a bane, especially during recent times when the world is dependent on technology. The good comes with the bad but creating a kid-friendly cyberspace is entirely possible. Adults just need to teach them how to use it the right way and have open and honest conversations about the dangers of it. Telling them why it’s not safe to do certain things will also help them understand instead of not sharing the reasons. Technology isn’t bad or good. It’s up to the people who use it. Let’s teach kids to use it the right way and they’ll change the future with it.