Safer Internet Day: Why Making Digital Space Safer For Children And Young Adults Is A Priority (Indiatimes )

Education has been impacted heavily in recent times due to the lockdowns in the country post the sudden rise in COVID-19 cases. It influenced a pattern and mode of education from the classroom to online.

As a result, an increasing number of children have started spending more time online as of early 2020. India had a staggering 50% increase in internet penetration in 2020 compared to 34.4% in 2019. The rise in children’s online participation is therefore evident given that 232 million of India’s 749 million internet users are youngsters.

COVID and increase in internet usage

After the pandemic, India’s internet penetration reached over 50%. It seems that the internet is now essential to their development. They spend hours searching the internet for information and knowledge. The abrupt shift of all arrangements to online platforms created a situation for which no one was prepared. To keep the education system running, teachers, parents, and students all had to navigate an unknown virtual world. Children have become more vulnerable to online exploitation as a result of the unprecedented increase in online communication and screen time. UNICEF has noted that the growth in children’s screen usage has jeopardized their online safety and raised the likelihood that they will encounter inappropriate behavior and content.

Rise in online sex abuse

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been an increase in cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children all over the world. Cybercrime against children in India had increased by more than 400% by 2019. The publication or transmission of child sexual abuse material was involved in nearly 90% of these crimes. The usage of social networking sites became more frequent, and the widespread adoption of online schooling and the use of educational apps have all been noted as potential hazards to children’s online safety.

ChildFund India has observed that the increase in online time poses serious risks to their online safety and increases their potential exposure to harmful behavior and content. A multidimensional approach involving the government, civil society organizations, CSR foundations, and non-profits are urgently required to win this war.

Children from low income families most vulnerable

Several reports published in recent times highlights that children from low-income families, marginalized communities, and rural areas are becoming vulnerable to online sexual abuse and exploitation due to a lack of awareness and support. As a result, the number of child abuse cases is increasing. This is why it’s so important to disseminate knowledge about child safety, especially with respect to social media apps, online/offline gaming platforms, and other online apps.

India’s stand on child online safety

India was ranked among the top 10 nations with the “best online safety for children” in the 2020 Child Online Safety Index (COSI), a survey of 30 countries carried out during the first year of the epidemic. In order to ensure the safety and security of children on online platforms, the Government of India has taken several proactive measures to address the issues and these are as follows:

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act 2012 includes effective provisions to combat child abuse.

The Information Technology (IT) Act 2000 includes a provision to address the threat of forged calls and messages sent via the internet.

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center was formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The government implements a project called “Cyber Crime Prevention Against Women and Children (CCPWC)” through the Nirbhaya Fund.

A National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal ( has been established.

A toll-free number 1930 (previously 155260) has been activated to provide assistance in filing online cyber complaints.

The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) established the POCSO e-Box.

It is necessary to supplement efforts of government in strengthening the existing mechanisms for reporting online offenses against children, cracking down on social media to reduce the presence of child sexual abuse material, focused on sensitization of children, teachers, and parents on the safe use the online platforms especially social media and lastly, capacity building of duty bearers to ensure better child safety.

The way ahead

Parents will go to great lengths to keep their children safe. As the line between the real world and the virtual world becomes increasingly blurred, our children are becoming more acquainted with the vast world of the internet. A child must be educated that even when bullying occurs online, parents and school administrators have the authority to put a stop to it. Children should be taught about cyberbullying so they are aware of the situation and know where and how to lodge a complaint. To successfully reduce cybercrime and threats that arise from online browsing, the initiatives require a more relentless drive. It is urgently necessary to invest in online child protection measures. The future generation’s children will benefit greatly from these efforts in making the internet a safe and secure environment.

To draw the required public attention, a phased nationwide 360-degree awareness campaign supported by the Indian mass media could be an important first step. Children, adults, parents, and teachers must be sensitized about social media safety, safe search modes, site blockers and timers, and parental control. Apart from this, integrating modules on ‘Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation’ into the school curriculum and the same should be made available in multiple regional languages to sensitize children and parents, and teachers.

About the author: Chandrashekhar Pandey is the Program Director, ChildFund India. All views/opinions expressed in the article are of the author.


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