With cases of cybercrime on the rise across the country, the police in Kottayam, Kerala, has put out a set of instructions for parents and children in the state in an attempt to raise awareness on online safety for children. The instructions were posted recently on their official Facebook page under the direction of District Police Chief Hari Sankar.
Although few of the instructions included in the notice are reasonable — to have proper and informative conversations about good or bad touch, about sexuality and sexual relations, direction to lock doors at night and keep the keys safely, to encourage children not to befriend strangers on social networking platforms or create secret Facebook or Instagram accounts, and to encourage them not to send notes or study material through WhatsApp — the other instructions evidently shout out patriarchy, and also a blatant disregard for privacy.
These instructions were put up as a response to specifically two cases that shook the state in the past few weeks. A 24-year-old man was arrested for allegedly raping 30 women whom he befriended on Facebook and was accused of threatening them using their photos and videos. And in another incident, a group of nearly 20 men was arrested and accused in a case of gang rape of a 16-year-old school girl.
There are a total of 16 instructions that direct parents about what should be done. It also states that children should not be given mobile phones and in case of emergencies, they can use their parents' phones. The police instructed parents to make sure that their children do not have an Instagram or Facebook account without their permission. In case they do, then the elders should monitor their friend list and check their messages regularly. The Kottayam district police also recommend that photos of girls should never be uploaded on WhatsApp or Facebook, and instructed girls to never take selfies with boys.
In a digression from online safety, and in a blatant disregard for privacy, the authorities also instructed parents to constantly check their wards' bags and cupboards without the child's knowledge.
Rather than the methods pointed out by the police, perhaps a more reasonable and fair approach in these times of increasing cybercrime would be to have frank and open conversations with your children about what is happening in their everyday lives and relationships. In addition to talking to them openly about sexual relations and safety, as recommended by the police in Kerala, parents could also try and engage in practices that will instill in their children the firm belief that they can trust their fathers and mothers with whatever issues or problems they may face without the fear of being rebuked.