As per a recent study conducted by Responsible Netism and Cyber Peace Foundation supported by Maharashtra State Council of Educational Research and Training (MSCERT), 80 per cent school students in Maharashtra between the age groups of 10-17 do not report cybercrimes they face online to their parents, teachers and the police; 33 per cent preferred to delete their content while 31 per cent informed their friends about it.
The study was conducted between October 2019 to February 2020 to understand internet usage trends of children across Maharashtra. The survey was done with 1148 children across 18 schools in Maharashtra with children between the ages of 10-17 years, studying in the 6th-9th standard.
The study reveals some worrying cyber behaviour trends prevalent amongst children in Maharasthra. 46 per cent of the students surveyed revealed that they were dependent addicted to their devices(phones, tablets, computers) and it affected their studies; 37 per cent of the students revealed that they were affected by some sort of cybercrime including their accounts being hacked, cyberbullying, being threatened online, harassment by strangers and even receiving pornographic content.
Interestingly the two most-used apps by children in Maharasthra are Whatsapp and Tiktok. The most popular online games amongst children are PUBG and GTA.
The study highlights the gap that exists around the need to educate children about responsible cyber habits which can ensure their online safety. Even though smartphones are a necessity for many, they lack safety features designed to ensure the cyber wellbeing of school children.
Talking about the study, Vineet Kumar, Founder, Cyber Peace Foundation said, “Low barrier to entry for smartphone ownership and affordable data plans have made children more vulnerable online. There exists a clear gap in our education system which needs to address this challenge. Parents, schools and technology companies need to undertake a proactive role in spreading awareness on this. Our understanding tells us that, most children remain unaware that they have been victims of cybercrime and hesitate to report to the police, their teachers or parents. They feel more comfortable talking about it to their friends who may be equally affected by this. Cybercrimes such as body shaming, cyberbullying are detrimental to the mental wellbeing of children and the number of cases is rising exponentially every year in Maharashtra.”
Commenting on the same, Founder President Sonali Patankar of Responsible Netism, said, “This survey highlights critical findings. Internet usage has spread across geographic economic verticals. Internet dependency is a looming threat that needs to be dealt with measures to provide support to children and adults both. Education not only about personal safety in cyber space and reporting online threats but, lessons and interventions on teaching self regulation to children in early year need to be addressed.”
She added, “Millions of kids in Maharastra today are being exposed to cybercrimes owing to the ease of access and anonymity that internet offers. Our research points to the fact that technology companies are not stringently safeguarding the interests of children towards ensuring their cyber wellbeing. Children’s genuine and honest responses about their online experiences are an appeal to us adults, caregivers and policymakers to protect them in cyberspace and make those experiences happy and safe space for children. There needs to be a concerted effort from the public and private enterprises in addressing this grave challenge in front of us.”