The COVID 19 pandemic has exacerbated the exigency to become technologically proficient in order to tackle the challenges posed by the exponentially evolving digital world. Digital Security is a fast expanding domain, and as the members of the social system, we must all possess extensive skills and understanding of how the digital world affects us. Approximately 5.03 Billion Internet users or 63.1% of the world’s total population are currently online. India has around 1.40 Billion Internet users as of January 2022, and the number is increasing minute by minute. According to the Kanter Report- The Hindu Businessline, India will have more than 900 Million Internet users by 2025. Kerala has the biggest percentage of users among the states, followed by Punjab and Haryana. Chandigarh has the highest percentage of Internet users among the smaller States and Union Territories.
According to global Statistics, one in three Internet users is a youngster under the age of 18, and one in three children are exposed to sexual content online. Regarding India, the age group between 5 and 13 years includes roughly 13.4 percent of the whole population, while the age group 13 and 17 years contains approximately 9 percent and the age group between 18 and 24 years comprises approximately 12.4 percent of the total population. Inappropriate content, cyber predators, and cyberbullying are the most obstacles encountered by children and adolescents on digital platforms. Delivering safe and secured online experiences is the primary duty of all stakeholders across many domains and geographies as they deliberate worldwide collaboration to enhance digital safety.
In this setting, Meta India has taken the initiative to empower the youth with a series of programmes. The “Pledge Planets’ ‘ series to involve children in a secure digital environment by Meta is marking another milestone in the Information Revolution, which has embraced the entire society. It provides an interactive and efficient platform to the youngsters to get well-acquainted with the digital etiquettes using the video snippets. Youth Advisers also assist Meta in developing more effective, inclusive and comprehensive programmes that might serve as an usher for the youth. In addition, Meta has added another feather to its cap by introducing ‘Meri Trustline’ in collaboration with RATI Foundation (Aarambh India Initiative). The hotline is intended to assist youngsters under the age of 18 who are exposed to Online Safety Concerns. The Hotline (6363176363) is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, to provide Technical, Emotional, Social, Informational and Referral support in Hindi and English by a team of Counselors, Techies, and Health professionals. Several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have also taken the lead in this field to construct a Digitally Safe social system with the active participation of youth. As the nation’s building bricks, the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi has provided a forum for the effervescent young brains. The young student ambassadors from various educational institutions across India work tirelessly day and night to continue on the heritage of ensuring online safety in the entire society. The like-minded and silver-tongued fellows hold frequent meetings, workshops, and interactive sessions; participate in various competitions, hold awareness drives, and observe all major days to provide unending service to humanity.
In consideration with the thriving phenomenon of living in the digital environment in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, as well as aspect of Inclusive Institutional Approach propagated by Meta India, ‘Digital Safety Club’ has been established on the premises of Goswami Ganesh Dutta Sanatan Dharma College, Sector 32-C, Chandigarh in June 2022. It was a joint effort between the New Delhi-based Non-Governmental Organisation “Centre for Social Research,” which strives to build a world without violence against women and girls and the Chandigarh Police. Since then, it has grown by leaps and bounds to enhance the Safe Digital Environment through novel activities. Numerous workshops have been held across India to familiarize students with “Digital Ethics” in order to assure their survival in this rapidly changing environment. In addition, the Chandigarh Police has developed Cyber Internship Programmes to equip students of Higher Education Institutions to behave as “Digital Citizens.” This inclusive approach to the ideals of all stakeholders makes everything feasible and attainable in terms of providing a secure digital environment for the entire society. After all, there is more to practical acceptance than strategies and projects posted on the wall or in the mail.
Our guest author, Dr. Rupinder Aulakh, Assistant Professor (HOD), Public Administration and Coordinator of the Digital Safety Club Goswami Ganesh Dutta Sanatan Dharma College, Sector 32, Chandigarh