Praneet Mungali, Trustee, Sanskriti Group of Schools

Praneet Mungali completed his schooling from the Doon School and took a degree in Economics and Finance from the London School of Economics, where he was a gold medalist. He also holds an MBA from the Indian School of Business (ISB, Hyderabad). Before his involvement in the education sector, he has worked in senior positions in the corporate sector in UK, Germany and India. His areas of expertise are Operations and Strategic Planning.

 

Our current information age is one of amazing possibilities and opportunities, but in many ways, it is also a double-edged sword. With the amount of risks that exist in the digital world, keeping children safe when they are online is a pressing issue for many guardians.

There are technological safeguards to serve as a bulwark against these risks, but technology alone cannot be the panacea to address this challenge. The most important starting point here is in investing time to develop a strong relationship based upon transparent communication between parents and children.

In a recent survey conducted in the US 63% of teenage children thought that cyberbullying was a serious problem. The challenge here is a trust deficit where the majority of teens believe that schools, social media companies and their governments are unwilling to redress the problem.  On the positive side most teens believe that their parents are effectual allies. The onus is on the parents to be vigilant and keep a strong line of communication open with their children so the children can trust them and reach out to them. Often, children are reluctant to tell parents or other adults if they are at the receiving end of cyberbullying. This reticence very often stems from a misplaced sense of shame or the fear of being judged. Children mistakenly believe that the adults may be unable to top the bullying, and that their ordeal will exacerbate once the bully knows that the child has told a parent or an adult.

So, what should parents do in such an eventuality? If you believe that your child is being bullied, or is a bully, it’s crucial to make an early intervention. Encouraging them talk to the parents / trusted adult or a counselor are very helpful steps. If required contacting social media companies to address the problem and involving law enforcement authorities are all measures which must be planned.

Some parents also ponder how to strike the fine balance of not becoming overly invasive about the online activity of their children but also keeping them safe at the same time? A lot of what your children post is in public view. This means that parents can also see it—and there’s no harm in reminding them that if your family can see it, so can everyone else.

There are a plethora of options for engaging with children on the subject of cyber safety. Parents must talk to their children and educate them about safe and risky online practices. It is also incumbent upon parents to honestly answer questions that children may have. Parents should also evaluate investing in online tracking tools or apps that enable parental control.

There is no dearth of popular family tracking apps like Mama Bear that enable parents to track their child’s location, these apps also allow parents to receive updates and messages from their children. These apps allow guardians to monitor social media, as well as other internet surfing habits. Some of these apps also have features that can alert parents if children are driving a vehicle and speeding.

Whilst it is important to strike the balance between respecting the privacy and safety of children but ultimately most children don’t fully understand that whatever digital footprint is left online can stay online forever. Online posts, photographs and chats have the potential to come back and haunt the children later on in life. It is hard for children in to appreciate how a seemingly fun or ‘cool’ act right now could cause challenges to them as adults when they appear for job interviews etc.

Ironically technology itself has many solutions for the challenges created by it. At the end of the day whether in the physical or digital world the best way that parents can keep their children safe and protected is by sticking to the time tested techniques of building strong relationships of trust and transparency with their children.

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