Online Gaming Safety Children Children User Data Cyber Stalking Harass Parental Controls Meity Government It Rules
As a young parent – born in the 90s and now an educator – entertainment, competition and livelihoods in the country have evolved right before my eyes. The Covid-induced pandemic provided the opportunity to study and work from home, making us even more digitally advanced and dependent on technology. With schooling, moving to a work-at-home environment and parenting becoming a double task, the children’s digital competence becomes of utmost importance. Today, a five-year-old can operate a computer almost as efficiently as an adult, but that comes with its challenges.
One such challenge is screen time, which we often encounter in online games.
Online gaming has many facets. It is currently used to educate, is a form of competitive sporting event for some, and is mainly designed for entertainment. It’s refreshing to hear some young students express their desire to be “gamers” when they grow up.
The transition from physical forms of entertainment to digital also brings in a new category of addiction and user security.
Recently, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has proposed some changes in the IT (Intermediate Guidelines and Ethical Guidelines for Digital Media) Rules, 2021, which will ensure that online games and players are protected. The draft amendment requires mandatory KYC verification of the users of online game intermediaries, among other things that can ensure the safety of online players.
As we fight against ideological challenges in society, we must remember that we are also learning to adapt and coexist with the younger generation. While parents can fully control a child’s screen time, it is the joint responsibility of the government (and game companies) to ensure that the content that a young, impressionable mind consumes mimics the physical boundaries of the society we live in, at least for the time being.
In games where chats, access to contacts and shared devices exist – it becomes important to take precautions to ensure that user security measures are incorporated.
When schools conduct online gaming tournaments, it encourages kids to showcase their skills in a game and win accolades. Yet it also exposes them to long hours in front of screens.
It cannot be denied that the lack of physical sports infrastructure, Covid, and sometimes security issues push children towards digital games instead of physical sports. It is an absolute must for civil society to ensure that it does not become a place of abuse, harassment and addiction.
With an increased digital presence, the threat of cyber attacks becomes higher. Children are practically exposed to the whole world, which is extremely dangerous. The attacks are growing daily and technology alone cannot protect children.
Cybercrime often occurs on various online platforms, from simple text messages or other instant messaging services to online gaming platforms. Hacking accounts, using foul language, stalking, etc. are some examples. Innocent children who are not aware of safeguarding their privacy can share personal photos/videos which can be easily misused.
A 2022 McAfee release stated that 85 percent of children in India have reported being bullied online. In addition, 42 percent were exposed to sexual harassment, and 28 percent were exposed to threats of personal harm.
The Information Technology Act, 2000 sets out specific provisions that protect children from various crimes in the digital space, including (i) obtaining compensation for the use of personal and sensitive information from others, including children; (ii) identity theft cybercrime; and (iii) a penalty for breach of privacy or transmission of obscene material in electronic form. This must be done actively when it comes to online gaming.
Very recently, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) issued rules on using the Internet safely and securely, instructing schools to set up firewalls. Other necessary software and indeed even the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) have released new guidelines for online gaming ads that prohibit advertising with young children under the age of 18.
If we compare to regulatory models in the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is administered by the Federal Trade Commission (an independent agency for the enforcement of antitrust and consumer protection laws), which protects the privacy of children under the age of 13. It requires that website operators and online services obtain verifiable consent from children’s parents before collecting, using or disclosing children’s information, subject to certain limited exceptions.
Parents can educate themselves about the potential risks associated with online gaming and take appropriate steps to protect their children, such as setting limits on the amount of time spent gaming and monitoring the games played. Schools have an equally important role to play when it comes to cyber security by raising awareness of its importance.
By working together, they can help ensure children’s safety online. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that parental controls are not the only factor contributing to a child’s virtual safety.
The author is the founder of Bright Bambini Montessori School and an early childhood educator with over 10 years of experience.
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