“For better and for worse, digital technology is now an irreversible fact of our lives. In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harm while maximizing the benefits of the internet for every child.”
– Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director
What we’re also witnessing is the advent of more and more children and parents coming online to lead their routine daily lives. Now, education, business and pleasure are intrinsically linked with our online presence and communication. Internet has also become a major source of gathering and spreading information. Keeping in mind that we’re seeing all citizens being urged to make online profiles, we have updated our Online Safety and Security Toolkit to empower all internet users with knowledge of the threats they can face (children and adults), and the various tools that they can use to not fall prey to online abusers, trolls or scammers.
Since the lockdown and the advent of Covid 19, there are a range of digital issues that are pressing to address. The first is the high volume of misinformation about Covid 19 that is circulating across social media platforms. The critical skill of assessing news sources and understanding the damage that fake news and misinformation can have is more vital than ever. Secondly, the closure of schools is creating a need for teachers and students to connect in online spaces.
So the online world has become an anchor of news, school, work as well as fun. With the information overload, it becomes hard to identify what is real, and what is not. This leads to a vicious cycle of misinformation that can have dire consequences not just physically, but also on the mental health of people. It would not be an exaggeration to say that India is facing an infodemic with promises of cow urine as a cure, conspiracy theories of virus not surviving in heat, whatsapp forwards urging users to panic-buy and suggesting rubbing onions help. As recipients of this misinformation, we have been using our social media handles to spread awareness about the infodemic and encourage the practice of asking questions and double-checking sources. We have had various discussions and update our social media platforms with inforgraphics, videos and quick ways to spot fake news.
India, even with low internet access, is still the world’s second largest user and also has unlimited distribution and access, of exploitation material, which further exposes and intensifies the threats and risks.
The good news is that children and adults can safely use technology and can avoid risks and respond effectively to unsafe situations, if armed with information and skills. Individuals who recognize the risks will be better prepared to intervene and lessen the potential negative impacts.
Centre for Social Research’s – Online Safety Toolkit, empowers users with tools to combat threats that are imminent and provides information about long-term solutions. The tool-kit has been designed specifically for the variety of threats that users face according to their personalized use of the internet. Our aim is to ensure that online citizens incorporate responsible and safe use of the internet and also are aware of personal steps they can take to ensure their safety, as well as provide help to their online peers.
* Digital Trends, 2019