Today, more often than not, we depend on the Internet to look for information, make purchases and communicate with our friends and loved ones. The same is true for our children, who use online tools for educational as well as entertainment purposes.
However, the virtual world is not foolproof, and bullies and perpetrators lurk behind computer screens, looking for opportunities to exploit vulnerable children and teenagers. While, as parents, it’s our duty to educate our child on how to navigate the Internet safely, we have to be aware of the kinds of threats children face in the virtual world.
Following are the different types of online victimisation that your child can fall prey to:
- Cyberbullying: Many people believe that cyberbullying is the holistic term for all kinds of cyber harassment. But it is not so. In the article titled, 'Why cyberbullying should never be taken as holistic term for cyber harassment', published in February 2018, the difference between cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment is explained. Cyberbullying is posting harsh, insulting or teasing messages targeting an individual either because of his body shape, attitude, background or his maturity. Cyberbullying is a common phenomenon that affects children, especially teenagers. A group or an individual can both be targeted. The bullied victim may feel extremely withdrawn, depressed or even become aggressive because he may be tempted to retaliate more harshly than the bullies. Unfortunately, India does not have any cyberbullying prevention law at the moment.
- Cyberstalking: If a child is being digitally stalked by a perpetrator and being harmed by him through sending of threatening or annoying messages or gaining unauthorised access to the victim, section 354D of the Indian penal code (stalking and punishment for stalking) read with S.11 (iv) of the POCSO Act may be applied (especially when the victim is a woman or a girl). Even though the latter is a part of a holistic provision adhering to elements of sexual harassment, the wordings of the sub-provision suggest that it can also be applied in cases of stalking including cyberstalking. The provision says that a person is said to commit sexual harassment upon a child when such person with sexual intent repeatedly or constantly follows or watches or contacts a child either directly or through electronic, digital or any other means. Children, especially teenagers, may become victims of cyberstalking which could lead to disastrous situations. In order to follow and monitor the victims, the perpetrator can also hack into their social media accounts, emails and even into their digital device.
- Revenge porn: Many teenagers become the victims of revenge porn. Revenge porn may be the result of a broken relationship whereby the perpetrator may use images and information of the victim to create a fake ID to damage the victim’s reputation. Victim involvement in such cases cannot be ignored. The victim herself may have sent the private photos to the perpetrator or may have consented to being captured in a compromising position by the perpetrator. There are also cases where victims get threatened after they expose themselves during video chats. Such videos or still images may be misused for creating revenge porn materials. However, revenge porn materials may also be created by jealous classmates with the help of images available on social media or digital messaging services. Unfortunately, we do not have any laws to address revenge porn till now. But this may be addressed by different laws including S. 67B of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) (punishment for publishing, creating, etc., material depicting children in sexually explicit act), S. 354C of the Indian Penal Code (Voyeurism and punishment for the same especially for women and girls), S.11(V & VI) (sexual harassment of child), S.12 (punishment for sexual harassment), Ss.13 & 14 (using child for pornographic purposes and punishment for the same) of the POCSO Act, etc.
- Grooming: Young children may fall victim to grooming when they start interacting with unknown ‘sympathetic friends’. But, such ‘friends’ may also exist in the child’s parents’ circle. for example, they can be the child’s relatives or parent’s friends or acquaintances. Children may get exposed to these perpetrators when they use their parent’s profiles to reach out to other children. Groomers may use the opportunity to extract private information about the children and blackmail them into performing sexual acts. S.11 (vi) (sexual harassment) and S.12 (punishment for sexual harassment) of the POCSO Act may be used to address grooming.
- Online child sex trafficking: One of the most dangerous organised crimes against children is online sex trafficking. This happens through different ways. Social media pictures of children may be used to create a database for adult sites. In some cases online sex trafficking may also lead to physical trafficking. Profiles of children (not necessarily collected from social media) can also be used for creating non-consensual porn content.
Monitor your child's Internet activity, but also encourage him to use online resources optimally for his school or college projects. The Internet is a boon, if we learn how to use it productively and stay away from perpetrators.
Hope you liked this article. To get expert tips and read interesting articles on a wide variety of parenting topics, subscribe now to our magazine.