“Children Should Be Taught To Be A Good Netizen”

Anindita Mishra spoke to Arnika Singh, Programme Manager at Social Media Matters about Digital Parenting. Anindita operates with the twitter handle @aninditagmishra and is known for her work in creating awareness about online safety of kids against cyber threats.

Sharing her journey as a cyber activist working on Online Security, Anindita shared, “I joined the cyber security evangelist forum 10 years ago. Even though people were using laptops, desktops and hand held games, the idea of digital threat was not very prevalent. And more so that mothers and fathers at home can be the first cyber security teachers for their children. My purpose is to bring everyone in the digital space to the cyber security bandwagon.” She further added, “Artificial Intelligence or augmented reality aren’t science fiction anymore but very much part of our everyday lives. It’s our responsibility to teach our children not only to be a good citizen but also a good netizen. When we started awareness was very low, but I am happy to say today there’s greater awareness and children themselves are so aware that they can teach their parents and grandparents about what is good or bad in the cyber world.”

“Children should be taught to be a good Netizen”

On being asked about how parents deal with managing screen times for their kids during this pandemic, Anindita opined, “Nobody knows how to exactly deal with this. Everyone is almost grappling with it. Gradually people are accepting and adapting to the circumstances. There’s been a shift in our understanding.” She pointed out, “whether it’s the parents working from home or children learning from online classes there have to be some adjustments to be made. It can be boring for the children. We need to keep them involved or engaged somewhere else. A lot of family bonding is also happening. There has to be a digital balance which the whole family needs to practice together. No devices during dinner. You have to clearly mark device time and non – device time for children.”

Talking about online safety for kids (Parental controls or other safety mechanisms) Anindita shared, “When my kids were 10 – 12 years old I would monitor when they would be playing games. I realized to download Yahoo driver for kids so that children are not redirected to inappropriate sites. The security tools I was using then involved parental control measures and I explained it to my children to ensure it was for their safety. You can block words like violence, blood, sex, so that they are not accessible to the kids. You can also give the age limit per child to logins. The parental control tool lets you know when your child has replied to strangers online.” She further added, “We also need to teach our children values of respecting elders, being diplomatic in speech and being respectful whenever you’re talking to people, be it online or offline. All the parents must tell their children - I’m always there for you. I may get angry or upset but I’ll be the best friend you’ll have if anything happens online, come to me, we’ll solve it together.”

Arnika pointed out, “In case of cyber bullying if someone is trolling me and I’ve somebody to talk to, the load automatically comes down. Having everything on yourself can be troublesome. So, we need to tell the children that we are there for you. Also, the children need not be put in a position where they’re made to feel they did something wrong. Such situations discourage the kids to come up and speak to you with an open mind.”

Speaking about consent in context with parents and children for digital parenting Anindita opines, “There’s a term too much information for TMI that we use in social media. What you post online even if you delete it will remain there after 10 years. There are pedophiles who look up for kids to spread rumors and other cyber crimes to satisfy their urges. In social forums there are third parties who’re collecting information about you. I urge parents please do not make your child’s life public.”

According to Arnika, “Parents should also look at who’s in your children’s network and social media profile. When there are kids involved we have to take care what they’re sharing online and who all they have in their network out there. It is as simple as telling your children to beware of strangers.”

When asked about screen timings for 3 – 7 years old Anindita shared there’s no set timing. She said, “People in the health sector are of the opinion that little kids shouldn’t have more than two hours of screen timing. Better get the child involved in nursery rhymes while travelling. But if your kid is completely driven into technology they can’t be creative. Parenting involves being both loving and firm. The child should know the rules. So you got to have stopping points.”

Arnika emphasized, “Very few kids are playing these days as they are more consumed in iPads and televisions. Parents should let their kids go out and be free instead of addicted to screens.”

On concluding remarks, Anindita highlighted, “Parents should give cyber safety mantra to their kids i.e. STOP, THINK, CONNECT. Take your time before responding to a friend request. Stop and think of why, when and what. Then only connect, share or click. You have to be the role model for all the good digital behaviour you want your children to display. Don’t carry phone/electronic devices around all time. Remember children are watching you, copying you. So, be a digital role model. Your children should have strong passwords and they should be careful about their privacy. Everything shouldn’t be online. You should tell your kids about stranger danger online. Fake news is a big threat. First confirm if it’s true before sharing it.” She concluded by stating, “Children should be taught how to stand up for themselves in case of facing bullying online. Children must learn from day 1 about digital footprints. What they do today will have an impact on their life in future. So, digital hygiene is very important. We need to teach children etiquettes like in the real world to have empathy and be good digital citizens. Be aware of educating kids.”

Social Media Matters have been conducting Open Houses with parents and teachers to guide them on safe Digital Parenting. Through these sessions our intent is to engage with maximum parents and aware them about mentoring their children rather than monitoring them.
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