India is a diverse country where you can find people from different backgrounds living, working and thriving together, and that is one of the greatest strengths of a democratic country. Home to over 100 languages and every major religion of the world, India thrives in its diversity. According to Census 2001, the Indian workforce is over 400 million strong, which constitutes 39.1 % of the total population of the country which has reached around 501 million workers in 2020. Over the past years, we have witnessed an increase in internet penetration, especially since the Pandemic hit in early 2020, resulting in the country’s digital population increasing to approximately 624 million active users, as of February 2021.
Children are now online for education, connecting with their peers and teachers, as well as leisure activities. But this unlimited access to the digital devices has its demerit to some extent. Unsupervised access has resulted in children becoming prey to online scams and other grave threats. In recent months, stories about online gaming resulting in children spending lakhs from their parents’ bank account, as well as stories of online harassment, scamming and targeted attacks on women and young girls got our attention. In an era where speedy internet connections and addiction to devices are becoming a norm, multiple stakeholder’s intervention is much needed to avoid physical, mental and social harm to the children and youth.
Tech giants need to reach out to target stakeholders, now more than ever, to constantly bring improved services and products. At this time when millions of children and young people are getting online regularly and using the technology, that is why, ensuring the security of each individual user has become essential.
For more than a decade, Centre for Social Research has been working with young children, especially young girls, on the issues of online safety and security. Several offline and online workshops have been conducted with more than 55,000 school children and youth across 250 educational institutions including schools and universities across India with dedication.
Through our workshops, unlike the school classroom, where rules and regulations are set in the physical presence of the teacher, the students themselves learn to stay safe and become responsible digital citizens and critical thinkers when they are engaging with the online world.
Contrary to the real world, when we navigate in the online space, we are on our own. Hence, this training on safety and security is important for digital users, especially children, who generally prefer to skip over the rules that pop-up when we first sign-in to the digital world. Education on crucial topics like data security, privacy controls, online protection and many more is the need of the hour, as many young children disregard rules before starting their journey as online citizens.
Google India’s efforts to contextualize resources is a huge step in the right direction, their “user education program” focusing on the online safety of children and their families is beneficial as preemptive training could prove to be crucial for holistic development. While the young population is getting online, training of teachers and guardians is crucial for ensuring children’s optimum safety on digital platforms. Google India’s efforts to ramp up its commitment towards online safety in India is the need of the hour, reaching millions of young children in India through visual comic representation in regional languages will have a greater impact on young children’s understanding of the digital world, and we as an organization support their efforts.