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MHRD India launches e-booklet on cyber safety for children

Image credit: UNESCO Digital Library; Safe online learning in times of COVID-19

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) digitally launched an information booklet on staying safe online for students and teachers.

The booklet, titled ‘Safe online learning in the times of COVID-19’, was developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), New Delhi Office.

The booklet will help spread awareness online among Indian youth about the basic do’s and don’ts of internet safety. Some of which include:

Do’s

  • Create a strong password according to password guidelines, and frequently change passwords to prevent misuse.
  • Read the privacy settings very carefully on social networking sites.
  • Communicate only with known people. Be careful while posting photographs, videos, and any sensitive information on websites as they leave digital footprints which stay online forever.
  • Report immediately to the support team of networking site if you suspect that your account has been hacked or stolen.
  • Invest in a strong network security system.
  • Use only verified open-source or licensed software and operating systems.
  • Set up your computer for automatic antivirus software and operating system updates

Don’ts

  • Reveal your password to anyone other than your parent or guardian.
  • Reveal personal information like age, address, phone number, school name etc. as this can lead to identity theft
  • Post your friends’ information on networking sites, which can put them at risk.
  • Forward anything that you read on social media without verifying it from a trusted source.
  • Leave an account unattended after login, log out when not in use.

The booklet also provides a list of support and helpline numbers.

With COVID-19 closing schools and universities across the country, education departments have made efforts to ensure the continuity of learning through various digital platforms. Millions of learners are turning to online education, which has led to an increase in the use of electronic devices and information and communication technologies (ICTs), the booklet explained.

This places children and young people at risk of online abuse, increasing their vulnerability to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is widespread and affects a significant number of children and adolescents and infringes their rights to education and health and well-being.

In India, an estimated 71 million children, between the ages of 5-11 access the internet, constituting about 14% of the country’s active internet user base of over 500 million.

Two-thirds of internet users in India are in the 12-29-year age group. Data and statistics have highlighted that post-lockdown, the internet has amplified the risk of cyberbullying.

To prevent and counter cyberbullying the booklet advises children to:

Not respond: Responding or retaliating may make matters worse.

Collect as much information as possible: Take a screenshot of anything that could be cyberbullying and keep a record of it.

Block and report: Block the offender and report on the social media platform immediately. This feature is available on most online platforms.

Talk about it: Inform trusted adults (parents and teachers) about the bullying incident. Seek help.

Be private: Keep social media privacy settings high and do not connect with anybody who you do not know offline.

Be aware: Remain updated with all the preventive and security measures in the cyber world.

The Director and Representative of UNESCO New Delhi stated that it is committed to ensuring access to safe, inclusive, and health-promoting learning environments for all children. It is imperative that websites, digital platforms, and social media networks are free of cyberbullying, if children are to access quality education.

The NCERT Director, Hrushikesh Senapaty, said that unsafe learning environments can undermine the quality of education for learners. An atmosphere of anxiety, fear, and insecurity is incompatible with learning.

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