Parents’ commitment to understand and monitor their children’s online activities is an issue that needs to be addressed.
The growing number of children using the Internet underscores the popularity of the Internet in today’s society. While the boost in Internet usage is a harbinger of the rising digital connectedness, both promising and problematic trends emerge from this landscape. These often concern monitoring and promoting healthy Internet habits amidst children and young users by parents and guardians.
2010 World Bank survey reads that 4.5% of Indians per 100 inhabitants have access to Internet. This is further supported by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) report suggesting that Internet usage has increased from 0.1% in 1998 to 6.9% in 2010 (released by IAMAI & IMRB). According to these statistics, there are currently 57 million active Internet users. Out of these, 28.23% fall under the age group of 15-24 years and 8.13% under 15 years. In the case of teenagers, the bellwethers of the electronic frontier, the use of digital media has surpassed television watching. The versatility of Internet for being content sensitive, interactive and being profiled as ‘favorite indoor entertainment’ has undoubtedly created the digital revolution. If we are not there already we are moving at breakneck speed to a time when logging onto the Internet is as essential to daily activities as making a telephone call.
Children’s online activities are diverse, with an emphasis on exploration (surfing and searching) communication (instant messaging, chat rooms, emailing) and entertainment (playing games, downloading and exchanging music, pictures and videos). Learning – both informal and formal – is also an important part of the digital mix for children. However, studies in India and abroad expose some alarming facts about children’s Internet activities and related parental awareness. Apart from the various physical and behavioral changes, the Internet exposes children to a variety of threats like cyber-bullying, inappropriate contact by complete strangers, getting sexually explicit emails or pop-up advertisements, unethical hacking and downloads, etc. Studies also suggest a rise in online gambling through arcade-type games or online casino and in such cases, children often find their own ways to gamble. The credit for a booming Internet gaming industry could very well be handed to children. The strategies for building such games like music, graphics, interactivity makes it irresistible for the children. These seemingly naïve contraptions are often responsible for the focus shift from education to vice and also possess the capacity to jeopardize online safety. The disconcerting fact is that over 51% of parents either don’t have or don’t know how to monitor their child’s Internet activity and define the Internet use for their kids.
There are antivirus tools like Quick Heal which has ‘Parental Control’ feature. This feature authorizes parents to monitor and configure Internet access for their kids very easily. Parents need to simply restrict categories of websites (like social networking, violence, drugs etc) or mention specific websites. It also allows parents to schedule Internet access for their children so that it does not become an addiction or limit the child’s social life. Parents can also determine to what extent the child can make use of functionalities such as e-mail, web pages etc. If the Internet use for the child is only for the purpose of browsing for educational purposes, the sites can be filtered accordingly (even when the parents are not at home).
With this, the parents can effectively prevent their child from being negatively influenced or approached through the Internet while being rest assured that personal information, such as address, bank and credit card details, remains private. Software like these guarantee your peace of mind by protecting your child against risks on the Internet, without taking away their freedom because at the end of the day a parent is still the parent; the child is still the child.