By Mesha Murali:
In today’s age, internet has become a necessity in every household. There are many who would advocate the internet for being beneficial and essential to keep up with our generation’s fast-track lifestyle. The internet not only helps us access information from around the world with just a click but also helps us keep in touch with our friends and family via email, instant messenger, chat and social networking sites. But like every good thing it too has its own drawbacks. Ironically, the same factors that work in favor of the internet add to its negative side i.e. easy access, worldwide availability and instant transfer of data which has made it a breeding ground for cyber criminals and bullies.
Most of the victims of the ‘big bad web’ are children as they are the easiest targets. The internet provides them with a wide range of resources for their social and educational development, but at the same time it can be filled with nasty surprises. With children increasingly using the internet it becomes important for parents to keep a close eye to prevent their child from becoming the prey. Children are most vulnerable while using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., as they don’t have enough life experience to distinguish between fake and genuine. Even though it is against Facebook’s policy for children below the age of 18 to have accounts, consumer reports have found that more than 7.5 million children have accounts on the same.
These children pose a greater risk of being bullied, cheated and being recipients of obscene messages from perverts. The fact that children tend to befriend strangers makes it easier for these criminals to approach their targets; for example, at times children receive messages from befriended strangers asking them to meet the sender, who may most possibly be a kidnapper. Another troubling matter may be that of spams, that trick children into revealing important personal information like phone number, account number, house addresses etc. This then may be put to various uses, subject to the spammer’s will.
To put a rest to the worried parent’s mind, MichaelÂ Fire, along with Dima Kagan and Aviad Elishar (two undergraduate students), has developed a new Facebook app which can help keep children safe from pedophiles. The Social Privacy Protector (SPP) app has multiple levels of protection. One of its main features is that it can review a user’s friends list in seconds to verify which of their friends have few or no mutual links and might be fake profiles. It also notifies the user about the applications installed on their profile that could threaten his or her privacy.
This app may bring some relief to parents, though this alone isn’t enough to tackle the problem. There is an increasing need for cyber education among children which will help them use the resources of the internet to their benefit, at the same time ward off any potential threat they may face while doing the same.