India is an emerging economy investing in computerization and broadband for rapid and balanced economic development. The Indian government has embarked on large egovernance programs and enablers like the Unique ID program (UID) which provides a unique biometric based ID for all Indian residents. The private sector has begun using ecommerce and the IT industry has established India as a leading destination for IT services.
Grooming our children in computer use is a well recognized essential. Today’s generation is a technology savvy one. It is quite common to observe young children surfing and gaming on the Internet. Most children do not realize what a pre-computer era was.
But the impetus on cyber education to ensure use of the Internet in a responsible, safe and secure manner is lacking in educational curriculums. The onus on cyber education is largely placed on the Indian parent who may not be familiar with computers or the Internet. This generation gap does not make them good teachers with proud or technology unsavvy parents allowing their children liberties with simple restrictions on Internet time and stricter parents forbidding their children altogether.
It is not practical to shield this generation from the use of the Internet. Children find ways through phone or computer, via a friend’s home and so forth. Children by nature love to play pranks. Knowingly or unknowingly they can indulge in a variety of pranks from bullying, obscenity, hoaxes and hacking. Some fall victim to online criminals and pedophiles. Some play pranks which economically affect the nation and its institutions like the recent case of a prankster caller phoning a Mumbai college to say that a bomb had been planted on the premises. 300 girl students were evacuated minutes after they started their exam.
At the same time, it is not advisable to allow children the use the Internet without instruction. The middle path lies in a system of cyber education to prepare our citizens as netizens in cyber ethics and the safe and responsible use of the Internet. In my opinion, cyber education should be taught by schools as many parents are yet unfamiliar with the Internet. Such a program should be endorsed by the education ministry, be a part of the ongoing IT curriculum, and include comprehensive training of school teachers across the country. Perhaps a national children cyber safety day in schools may help increase awareness.