When 12-year-old Simran (name changed) logged on to her Facebook account, she found that her account had supposedly been “hijacked”.
Her photograph had been morphed and changed. Her status had been updated with weird and abusive statements. She realised that a lot of unknown people had been added into her account which had resulted in this mess. She later found out that this had happened because she had not created a strong password to safeguard her account.
Alarmed that cyber bullying is one of the biggest problems faced by school students today, schools have started teaching young girls and boys to stay safe on the Internet.
In a first of a kind initiative, JBCN International Group of Schools in Lower Parel and Borivli has introduced a cyber safety awareness module as part of its curriculum.
“At a time when women safety is being discussed nationwide, cases like Simran’s occur almost every day. Girls are as unsafe online as they are in public places. Yet, none of the school boards have included cyber security awareness in the curriculum,” said Tapan Mehta, director Asian School of Cyber Law and Data 64 Technologies Pvt Ltd, who has collaborated with several city schools to offer such workshops.
While most schools hold workshops on such topics, JBCN International is one of the first city schools to have included it in the curriculum, says Mehta.
Students from class III to VII, are being taught ‘Cyber smartness’ programme, consisting 12 modules, for an hour every week. The programmes teach them how to create strong passwords, smart social networking and smart online shopping. “We cannot stop children from accessing internet but we can ensure that they do so safely,” said Fatima Agarkar, managing trustee of the school.
One of the most important aspects of the programme is creating awareness about cyber bullying. “Cyber bullying is no longer restricted to school corners, students are subjected to public humiliation through cyber bullying. Thus, its effects are magnified on the student who gets into chronic depression,” said Mehta.
Another disturbing trend is students playing inappropriate online games. “I had cases where students actually bet real money while playing poker games on social networking sites. When a student lost and could not pay up the money, groups of students even go to the extent of actually beating up the child,” said Mehta.