Published: 29th January 2022
Report discusses how to prioritise child safety in a world that's increasingly going virtual
The report was launched at a roundtable that brought together players from gaming and mental health fields plus, officials from NCPCR and the Department of School Education
Two years of the pandemic have pushed students into six hours of online classes on a regular basis. Online safety is, therefore, a concern weighing heavy on the minds of parents as well. Space2Grow, a consulting organisation offering various services in the sector of online safety, has joined hands with EdTech platform Vedantu to create a benchmark report on online safety mechanisms for children. A first of its kind, the report, titled Online Child Safety: Indian Education Space, Benchmarking Report 2021, outlines a framework that needs to be in place to ensure the involvement of all stakeholders in bolstering safety for students online.
The report has identified four indicators of the proposed framework, which include, accountability, reporting and redressal, data privacy and handling, and the digital risks and harms
To address the deeper issues associated with safeguarding children from online harassment and abuse, the report was launched at a roundtable that brought together players from gaming and mental health fields and officials such as the Chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Children's Rights (NCPCR), Priyank Kanoongo, to the Director of the Department of School Education from the Ministry of Education, Rajnish Kumar.
Kumar underlined the fact that given the limited control over cyberspace, having proactive mechanisms for safety in place would serve children better. Kanoongo stated examples of how children from diverse backgrounds are being lured out of their homes by traffickers, posing a serious threat to their lives. "The priority of social media platforms is business, not the career and safety of kids," said the chairman, adding that the commission's stance is that in an environment where students are taking online classes organised by the school, it becomes the responsibility of the schools to ensure their safety.
The importance of "socialising" children towards the virtual world was also recognised as a crucial step in establishing avenues for safety on the internet. Dr Eesha Sharma, Assistant Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NIMHANS said, "The reason why self-regulation doesn't work is that our nature is geared towards reward-seeking, not control. Involving children in the dialogue is most important because they're the most crucial stakeholders. We need to enable children to have skills to navigate the system safely."
Pitching in on behalf of the gaming industry and the state of security in the sector, Sameer Desai, Founder of Kreedana, a platform that promotes responsible gaming, said that it is hard to have a standardised metric for child safety in the field. "Then there is also the fact that parents are not aware of the gaming ecosystem and what kind of checks they need to put in place for various games. It is very important to know what layers of communication go into the games their children play. Limit how much of their personality they can share via the game. Right now, it begins and ends at limiting screen time, which is simply not sufficient," he adds.
Pulkit Jain, Co-Founder of Vedantu Innovations, believes that the lack of incentives for organisations in ensuring child safety is also adding to the sluggish pace at which developments are being made in the field. "Children essentially create their identities while interacting with various stakeholders such as teachers, mentors, counsellors and even a few salespersons. It is possible for kids to be exposed to abuse at this time and, therefore, the prompt reporting and redressal mechanisms that Vedantu has in place come in handy. Such mechanisms need to be replicated and developed across the EdTech community," he shares.