The internet came to India in August 1995 and by 2017, according to the World Bank, 34.4 per cent of the population was using the web. The 21st edition ICUBE report by KANTAR IMRB states that by the end of 2019, India will have 627 million internet users. A majority of Indians, however, use the internet without having received any formal training in safety practices or online etiquette.
In 2018, the Government of India launched an ambitious digital literacy programme to make at least one person in every household a digital literate. Yet digital literacy in India has a long way to go.
Ashok Pamidi, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation which has trained around 2.5 crore people under the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) believes that staying safe online and digital financial literacy are the primary things India needs to learn today. It is the young users between 14 to 16 years and senior citizens above 60 years who are more prone to risk online, he informed.
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With internet usage being more common among teens as compared to the elderly, it makes children most vulnerable. According to a survey by Google India, children as young as 10 years have access to the web, while 98 per cent Indian parents believe that to use the internet independently, their ward should be taught about online safety and digital citizenship.
According to the survey, 45 per cent Indian parents believed their child had been exposed to inappropriate content online while 43 per cent said they were subjected to overshared information on social media.
While the NCERT has decided to introduce an internet safety curriculum in schools, parents feel the need to teach their children about privacy and security (97 per cent), healthy digital habits (96 per cent), and information sharing (95 per cent). The change, believe experts, would come from teaching parents first.
“We think parents play a very integral role in ensuring that children learn to use technology safely. There is a need to emphasise how important it is to get parents involved in order to support what the teachers already teach in schools. Parents need to have an open dialogue with their children and teach them about topics including being kind online, setting boundaries, and staying safe online. Parents should encourage their children to report any inappropriate behaviour they experience online and help them learn how to deal with the different challenges they face,” said Lucian Teo, Education and Outreach Manager, Google APAC.
Sharing tips to maintain digital wellbeing, Teo remarked that guiding children towards good content, monitoring their device usage, being thoughtful in their own technology use and keeping the conversation going can be critical tips for parents.