In today’s time, where we turn to computers and smartphones with internet for almost everything, our increasing dependence on the same makes us more vulnerable to cyber attacks and crimes. With children younger than six year using tablets to play games, children are exposed to the cyber world from a very young age. While this supplements their growth and learning by leading them to a world of infinite information and possibilities, it also introduces them to a world where anyone sitting behind a computer screen can contact and communicate with these children with ill intentions, making them more prone to be victims of cybercrimes.
Almost all school going children have access to social networking sites or the social media, however, a very small percentage of these children are aware of the precautions they must take to protect themselves from cyber crimes. Children must be especially careful about their privacy settings to avoid situations where in they make themselves vulnerable to cyber harassment by making the details of their private life public. An international study conducted by Microsoft in 2012 has revealed that 53% of the child population in India has been subjected to cyber bullying and these numbers have gone up since then. This raises serious concerns for the safety of innocent children participating in activities within the cyber world.
It is very important to recognize that in a world where things are increasingly being digitized, isolation from the cyber world is not a feasible option. Therefore, children must be taught how to make use of this technology while guarding themselves against these cyber crimes and also how to deal with any mishaps over the internet.
How does one thus ensure that their children do not fall victims of these cyber crimes? Firstly, since, children are exposed to the good and bad of the cyber world at a very young age, it is not possible to explain to them the differentiation between right and wrong on the internet through theory, that would otherwise be effective for the youth. In order to educate children in a way acceptable and attractive to them to understand the possibility and impact of cyber crimes, we must look for newer, more creative ways, that not only help to understand what’s happening, but also leaves a long lasting impact on their minds.
Various studies conducted in cyber security education, highlight the fact that using games and quizzes to deliver cyber safety training proves to be significantly more effective than traditional methods of teaching children the same. The Department of Homeland Security, USA began an initiative to encourage a ‘Hands-On Learning’ approach for students to understand the implications of the cyber world and the importance of cyber safety. The interactive cyber security games and quizzes provide a flexible and fun way for kids to grasp key skills and understand how to use the internet safely.
In New Zealand too, a non-for-profit organization called the Alannah and Madeline Foundation in collaboration with Google, has started in right earnest a highly successful program in imparting cyber safety techniques to children through online quizzes which engage the children whilst driving home the hidden message of cyber safety and laws to them. The quiz called Digital License also equips the students with a course of action in case they fall victim to cyber bullying or are exposed to inappropriate and offensive content on the internet.
Using new and creative techniques to train children and make them responsible ‘Netizens’ in this age of new media will also serve as an effective way of building a tech savvy youth population in the future and ensure that time spent online is positive, constructive and enjoyable. Cyber security is a critical skill for children and it is thus, imperative for parents and teachers to harness all available techniques to equip them to face the online world, making the same more effective and impactful by employing new methods of training.