India houses the world’s second largest Internet population. With greater reliance on our laptops and phones and the daily consumption of the Internet increasing day by day, inevitably it leaves us vulnerable to various threats within cyberspace. While information technology has its perks, it also has its share of banes. Although most of us are aware of the moral weight of certain acts on the Internet, such as making slanderous remarks or sharing obscene content within groups, the existence of legal remedies and the process of registering a complaint in relation to this are not of common knowledge.
(Source: National Crime Records Bureau, INDIA)
Cyber abuse includes financial, personal, institutional and even terrorist strikes. We will be focusing on online safety in personal space. Some of the commonly found cyber safety issues are:
- Unsolicited communication: These could be unwelcome sexual requests, comments, videos, pictures, text, voice, calls or any other form of communication with a sexually offensive nature sent to you without your consent or knowledge repeatedly.
- Threats: This is when you or your loved ones are threatened with physical harm or by posting any form of unwanted information about you online.
- Blackmail: This is when someone threatens to harm you or your loved ones by physical means or by sharing real or fake information that may damage reputations (yours or your loved ones’) if you do not do something that they are demanding. The number of people being targeted for this is increasing daily, as some people find it easy to earn money from the anonymity of their screen.
- Cyber Bullying: Cyber bullying is when someone sends you intimidating messages, teases or shames you online. This may also include someone sharing your information publicly online or in a group.
- Trolling: Trolling is when an individual is targeted with harmful and demeaning messages or comments.
- Cyber stalking: It is the repeated use of social networks, mobile communications, and digital forms of technology to harass and stalk you in any way. Cyber stalking can be a one time incident or something that’s been happening for years. It can be by strangers or people close to you.
- Online sexual harassment: Online sexual harassment includes a wide range of sexual misconduct on digital platforms.
- Child Sexual Abuse Material: These can be videos, texts, images, including computer graphics that contain inappropriate sexual material on children.
- Revenge Pornography: Some relationships, as good as they might have been might end up in separate ways due to incompatibility. In a lot of cases where one partner can’t accept the end of a relationship, it might turn toxic. In such cases, which are quite a few, the photographs and videos that you had made in good times and are good memories turn toxic too. The toxic partner will use it to threaten and blackmail in order to gain something, even money for revenge.
- Hacking : Unethical hacking is the unauthorized intrusion into a device or network often used to perform illegal activities or intimidate a target.
- Fake profiles: Impersonating a person, organization or company that may not exist to harass, stalk or gain access to your data.
The sexual exploitation of children is an ever evolving epidemic of child abuse and without proper monitoring, the untethered use of the Internet puts a child at great risk. Internet safety experts warn us almost daily about the sexual exploitation kids are facing today, and child protection agencies can barely keep up with their caseload. In the present scenario, with the ease of use of the Internet, it gives predators an opportunity to get in touch with children they couldn’t reach before and with a sense of anonymity that makes them bold in their approach. The sexual exploitation of children may not be new, but it is a danger that can now reach further into households and schools via the Internet, and all parents and educators must be cautious and prudent about the safety of their children. This is why Internet safety is absolutely imperative for parents and teachers who want to protect their children from sexual predators.
- Talk to your kids about being safe online. Do not shy away or hold information from them. Openly talk to them about the dangers and make them understand that they can trust you to support them in case of a danger or an emergency.
- Do not threaten them or scare them, let them feel safe and understand that they can turn to you in times of crisis.
- Use a child protection software such as NetNanny or K9 Protection to keep your children safe online. (only use these if your kids are under the age of 12. Making use of these beyond that age may harm your relationship with the child.)
- Teach them about what are acceptable and unacceptable conversations online and tell them to talk to you about any person, who they feel is approaching them in a hostile way.
- Make them understand that they do not have to give in to threats no matter what the situation they are in.
- Ask them to never share their personal information online.
- Know what their interests are online and encourage them to use the internet more productively.
- Inform them about dangers of meeting people online and ask them to be open about it if someone is pushing them to meet them outside in secluded areas.
- Ask them not to install unnecessary applications on their phones or desktops. Also inform them not to give permission for random apps to access their Facebook and other accounts.
- Do not upload pictures of children online. Especially those in their school uniforms.
- Do not break their trust. Children too need their space and breaking this repeatedly can cause them to hide information from you and not trust you at crucial times.
- Ask them to keep a safety app handy.
The number of children getting addicted to pornography is increasing. Children observe and watch what you do. If you don’t delete information from your mobiles and sites that you don’t want them to watch before you give them gadgets to use, you put them in danger of watching and imitating what you don’t want them to see. The age group of children trying out what they see on pornography sites is decreasing, so do take care of what is on your gadgets before you hand it over to them
How It Affects Children
- It shapes sexual values, attitudes and behaviors.
- Violent porn creates false ideas about healthy sexuality and intimacy or the development of deep personal relationships.
- Change in expectations in a relationship, physical appearance and behavior.
- Prematurely sexualizes children.
Never post your future plans, information that reveals your location through GPS, phone, address, school, relations or anything that will help someone learn about you.
• Do share photographs/ videos carefully
Share only those photos/videos you are comfortable with anyone seeing.
• Do be careful while making video calls and while using disappearing chats
No matter what people tell you, chats and calls can be recorded and retrieved.
• Do save texts for evidence
Block out sexually suggestive messages or chats from unwanted people. Do not delete or deactivate accounts or texts. Back up information for proof.
• Do be careful while giving your phone to children
Parents should be aware of what children are browsing and also make sure that they don’t access adult material available on your phone.
• Do be careful when playing games online
Don’t reveal your details including number or personal ID online. Don’t make friends through online games.
• Do use a strong password
Eg: Take a line out of a book, replace words with numbers where possible ( 0 instead of O , 3 instead of E etc.).
• Do be careful about downloading applications
Spend some time reading the permissions and terms and conditions of the app.
• Do learn to switch off
If you feel that your gadgets are taking over your life, switch off your gadgets and look for other options like arts, reading a book, listening to music, connecting with nature etc.
• Do reach out
Reach out to friends, family or the law enforcement agencies like the police if in trouble. Never give into threats, it only gets worse.
Do not leave your phone with friends or at repair shops. Remove the SIM, SD card and reset before giving it for repair. If you can’t do this, stay with the phone while it gets repaired at authorized service shops only.
• Do not share photographs of children online
Internet is not a safe place to post photographs of children, their photos can be sold online to paedophiles and sex traffickers.
• Do not bully anyone online
Bullying people online is illegal. It could also lead them to taking their lives.
• Do not give into threats or blackmailing
The person hiding behind a gadget and trying to scare you is a coward. Break the cycle of fear. Warn them that you will report them to the law enforcement if they don’t stop harassing you.
• Do not share/ watch child sexual abuse materials
Creating, sharing or watching child sexual abuse materials is an offence
• Do not spend time online when you are depressed
When depressed, looking at other people’s seemingly exciting lives could leave you even more depressed.
• Do not look up social media profiles of people you have broken up with
It could lead to mood swings, depression and finding ourselves unable to move on.
• Do not share information blindly
Do not share without checking if it is genuine or verified, as in a lot of cases it turns out to be fake or false and will mislead others.
• Do not use pirated software
If you want free software search for open source software.
• Do not share posts or messages that incite hatred.
It causes issues and induces negativity within you.
- Stay calm and not panic.
- Do not give in to threats; do not do what they want or meet them. The offenders usually do not go ahead with their claims as they know they are in in wrong and will be in trouble.
- Make records of all communication and save and keep a backup. You will need this in case you need to take further action.
- DO NOT delete or deactivate your accounts or apps. This may cause you to lose critical information.
- Reach out to a trusted person like a friend, colleague or spouse or the law enforcement. When you reach out, you are breaking the circle of fear the predator has built around you to connect you to them. If you can’t get adequate support, please call our helpline at +91- 8891320005
- Tell the offender strongly to back off or let them know that you are not interested in further communications. Also inform them that you will go ahead with legal remedies if they keep bothering you.
- Make sure that the offender knows that you are not scared to go to the authorities if that is what it takes. Offenders depend on you being too scared to go to another person. That is why they use it as their hold over you. Your fear.
- If the threats continue, file a complaint with the local police and take support of family and friends.
- Communicate with your child about the issue. Calm them down and make them understand that you will stand with them and solve the issue. They should know that they are not alone.
- Do not get angry or blame the child for the mistake. Be supportive and make them feel safe.
- Ask the child for details and help them save all the communications and other information from the offender.
- Do not ask the child to deactivate or delete the account as this can cause other undesirable reactions including losing information about the offender.
- Reach out for support in case you need help.
- Take the issue to the law enforcement.
- The most important part is that the child feels safe and that he or she feels confident that you will stand with them.