“What are you doing?”
“Uploading pics of our school fest. And don’t peer over my shoulder, Aunty. I have already uploaded a few so check them out on your Instagram account.”
I beat a hasty retreat and did as instructed. The photos brought out a smile- such fresh, innocent faces of kids having a good time! But that feeling rapidly changed when I read the comments on one particular pic.
“Now why are you frowning?” asked the niece.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have shared this one. It’s attracting rude comments. “
Instantly remorseful, the niece took down the picture, but I decided to nevertheless give her a talk on responsible posting.
On the occasion of Safer Internet Day (SID) 2019, let us find out what can make our digital world a happier and safer place, and our digital experience a more positive one.
There are many, like you my dear readers, well aware digital users who endeavor to take measures and ensure that your accounts are secure and devices safe. However, one needs to keep in mind that we are linked online, and therefore the key word is ‘together’. No single entity or product can guarantee 100% safety online, but together we can strive to bring about a better digital experience for all. That’s the theme for 2019 too – ‘Together for a better internet’.
Incidentally, McAfee too has a similar tagline, ‘Together is Power’, underlining the fact that it needs the collaboration of all players- digital users, organizations and vendors- to make cybersecurity effective.
Organizations lay down rules and monitor usage, vendors provide security tools and that leaves us, the users. What can we do?
‘What can we do as parents?’ Let us start by helping our kids develop four critical skills – the 4Rs of online safety:
- Respect– I treat myself and others the way I like to be treated
- Responsibility – I am accountable for my actions and I take a stand when I feel something is wrong
- Reasoning – I question what is real
- Resilience – I get back up from tough situations
How do we teach what respect means? We respect those we love or admire. But we also need to learn to respect rules, people’s feelings and take a sympathetic view of differences in physical and emotional aspects of people. The two values that this calls for are tolerance and empathy.
Here are a few ways you can teach kids respect:
- Appreciate when they are tactful and kind
- Correct them if they are mean
- Make it a family practice to use ‘sorry’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’ a lot
- Role model respectful behavior like being silent in the library, sharing photos with permission, treating boys and girls as equals
- Set rules and specify penalties for breaching them
At the same time, help your kids identify undesirable behavior that may show disrespect and abuse.
- Being approached by strangers online who ask for photos, personal thoughts
- Being a witness to rude, aggressive behavior that causes anguish
- Being belittled for beliefs, appearance, race, gender
- Being challenged to perform a dare the child isn’t comfortable with
Standing up to injustice and aggression as well as springing back to normalcy despite a negative experience is what resilience is about. Let’s accept it, bullies will continue to exist and so it is in the interest of the kids to know how to survive tough situations online. The recipe also calls for dollops of love, support, patience from the family and friends.
Actions that may lead to negative experiences:
- Risky challenges
- Being ignored by peers online
- Befriending child groomers
- Falling prey to hackers and scammers
You know what to do, right? Teach them cybersafety practices; change account settings and passwords or even delete accounts if necessary; report scam and abuse; rope in teachers to stop bullying in school. Stand by your child. Encourage them to get back on their feet and resume normal life. Help them be tough and face the world- they will thank you for it.
We have often discussed responsible online behavior in these pages, so will not rehash it. Suffice to say that we are the digital space users, content generators and consumers. So, our actions online will ultimately affect us and those in contact with us and their contacts and so on and so forth, covering the entire digital populace. Practice STOP. THINK. CONNECT. SHARE.
We will do the kids a big favour if we can help them to think and act instead of following the herd mentality. Encourage them to question, to reason before accepting any online content to be true. Help them understand the reach and consequences of digital posts and ways to distinguish between a fake news and a real one. Kids have wonderful reasoning power and let us push them to exercise it fully.
What can we do as a community? I think South Korea has set a sterling example:
A civil activist group in South Korea, Sunfull Internet Peace Movement, initiated the “Internet Peace Prize” in 2018 to promote online etiquette and fight cyberbullying. The award went to two people from Japan for their effort to protect human rights by tackling cyberbullying. We can start something similar in our children’s school or our neighbourhood. Schools can set up cyber armies to identify and stop cyberbullying and offer support to victims. The possibilities are many.
Stay safe online everyday; it just calls for a little care. Just like in the real world.
Office of the eSafety Commissioner, An Australian Government initiative