Cyber Laws: What Your Teen Needs To Know

The tech-savvy youth of today can knowingly or unknowingly break cyber laws and commit cybercrimes. Know how best to prevent your child from misusing technology and committing cybercrimes.

By Sushma Sosha Philip and Susan Philip

Cyber Laws: What Your Teen Needs To Know

We are currently living in a time where technology is advancing in leaps and bounds and the younger generation is being exposed to technological developments even at the school level. Thus, today’s teens are more informed about, not only the various ways in which technology can be harnessed for their benefit but are also well-versed with ways to exploit it. As a result, there is a tendency to act in a way that is not appropriate. Sometimes such acts may even be categorised as cybercrimes. It is important for you, as parents, to be aware of the existence of these crimes and take adequate measures to ensure that your teens do not exploit technology.

What are cybercrimes?

Cybercrimes can be defined as crimes that target a computer or data of the computer or even use the computer as a weapon. The recent WannaCry virus attack is a good example of a cybercrime. With even a basic knowledge of technology, it is possible to orchestrate such cybercrimes. While these crimes do exist, India has taken stringent legal methods to control the same. The primary regulation that governs cyber law in India is the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008).

Preventive measures:

1. Informing your teen of the various cybercrimes in existence: A number of actions are categorised as cybercrimes. However, cybercrimes themselves can be divided into three basic categories – crimes against persons, crimes against property and crimes against the government.

  • Crimes against persons would include actions such as cyber stalking and cyber bullying which is common among teenagers.
  • Crimes against the government include actions such as cyber terrorism and sedition. While you may not think that children and teenagers are capable of carrying out such serious crimes, it is important to keep in mind that several terrorist outfits spread their propaganda over social media and influence impressionable individuals to support them and share their posts.
  • Probably the most common type of cybercrime committed is crime against property. While teenagers may lack the expertise or motive to create and spread software viruses, very often they download movies, songs and games from illegal Internet sites for free. This act of downloading pirated versions of these literary works is a form of infringement of the intellectual property rights of the creators of these works. Another common crime against property is hacking, by which an individual gains access to another’s system without their consent.

Apart from the instances mentioned above, there are many more specialised actions that are classified as cybercrimes and are prohibited for this reason.

2. Educating you teen on cyber laws and penalties for cybercrimes: The Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) is the main law dealing with cybercrimes and technology-related issues. It lists various crimes and their punishments. Many of these crimes are also punishable under other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code. For example, cyber terrorism is punishable both under S. 69 of the IT Act and any other law on terrorism that is applicable. These offenses and their penalties are under constant discussion due to the rate of development of technology.

3. Monitoring Internet use of pre-teens: Nowadays children are exposed to gadgets and technology as early as primary school. Though children below 18 years are not allowed to create profiles on many of the more popular social media platforms, many children below this age limit create profiles on such social media platforms either with or without the knowledge of their parents. Children may be influenced by the content available on such sites or may themselves become victims of cybercrimes. Placing the right checks and balances with your child at an early age will allow him to develop his own sense of responsibility when he is old enough to be on social media.

4. Teaching your child to respect property, privacy and persons: While this may seem a rather general guideline, it goes a long way in ensuring that your child respects cyber laws. Many cybercrimes relate to the infringement of property rights, privacy rights and other personal rights of individuals. Inculcating a general awareness of these rights in your child will help her apply the same in a virtual environment as well.

5. Keeping yourself updated with technological developments: Another important way to ensure that your child is not breaking any cyber law is to keep yourself updated on new developments in technology. Due to the fast-developing nature of technology, cyber laws need to be adapted to regulate these developments. By keeping yourself informed of the basic developments and trends, you can be aware of not only the new laws but also the new cybercrimes that come up. In doing so, you will be better able to advise your child on these issues as well as keep him informed of the punishments he might attract for the contravention of cyber laws.

As parents of a generation which has grown up using smart phones and accessing the Internet from a very young age, it is important for you to teach your children to respect the laws that govern this area. Instilling these values at a young age will help to prevent the misuse of these technological advantages at a later stage.

Sushma Sosha Philip is a lawyer with experience in corporate law and IPR. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree from the University of Leiden.

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