Watch out! Your child’s familiarity with digital technology and the Net could spell danger! Read on to find out how to keep her safe.
By Dr Debarati Halder
The smartphone has become ubiquitous today with each member of the family, irrespective of age, possessing at least one smart device to stay ‘connected’. And, where buying a smartphone is concerned, it is not only the elders in the family who decide. Even 5- or 6-year-olds are ready with suggestions on what phone to buy and from which shopping platform. Children are well aware of the different makes of smartphones and their specifications. Also, it is often they who direct their parents on downloading free games, shopping and communication apps, photo-managing apps, etc., from Google Play Store. But, this kind of familiarity with technology comes with its own dangers.
I have interacted with many parents of children of the digital communication technology era who are worried about their children’s safety on the Internet. However, it is often the parents themselves who introduce their children to the Net and to various online games. Many of them use these games to pacify the children and keep them out of trouble, little realising that some of the more violent ones numb the child to the pain of others. In fact, the child may even start getting sadistic pleasure by what we call ‘visual victimisation’.
Some dangers associated with smartphones that you need to protect children from:
Dangers of photo apps and cameras: Parents allow the child to play around with photos on their phones. The child may use a photo editing app to add a ‘piggy nose’, ‘doggy ears’ or fancy hair styles to the photos of family members without their permission. The parents may laugh it off, secretly proud of their child’s creative skills. But he may soon learn to morph pictures if he is not monitored. It is important that parents do not leave a camera device (including a camera phone) unmonitored with a child. They should also take great care to ensure the child does not infringe on the privacy of others, even in a public place. He should be taught not to take pictures of people when they do not want to be photographed – specifically in washrooms, restaurants, beaches or on public transport. Such habits don’t always turn the child into an excellent amateur photographer; they could well turn him into a voyeur instead.
Dangers of social media: Let’s turn to social media. What would you do if you suddenly find your preteen on social media in a fake avatar? I have seen several children opening Facebook accounts much before they are eligible to do so. They love to play hide-and-seek with parents, meet exciting virtual friends, upload pictures of themselves as well as of those they have photographed in public places to get a huge number of likes, bully ‘enemies’ and shadow teachers they don’t like and tear them to shreds. Sometimes, they discuss studies with friends. The child may even operate her parents’ social media accounts. In such cases, the parents will become directly liable for any criminal activity done by the child.
So, how can you be a good friend while guiding your child in his Internet adventures?
Here are some smart cyber parenting tips:
Following these suggestions will definitely make cyber space safer for your little one and allow you to stop worrying about him.
Dr Debarati Halder is the Honorary Managing Director of Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org) . She is also working as Professor & Head of the Department of Research, Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She can be reached @firstname.lastname@example.org
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