This article has been written by Kiran Krishnan, pursuing a Diploma in Cyber Law, FinTech Regulations and Technology Contracts from LawSikho.
Ever since Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica Scandal took place, the care for an individual’s privacy has taken precedence. The reaction to this fiasco was met with immediate action by countries including the European Union (“EU”) which adopted the General Data Protection Regulation to regulate data privacy & protection of individuals who live in the EU. The increasing importance of privacy of individuals around the world has also led to concerns for the protection of the privacy of children. The topic of privacy of a child has its own set of responsibilities. Children are young and immature especially between age 6 and 14 or in some cases until 17 or 18. The concept of privacy & protection as well the variety of content posted on the internet is unknown to them. Therefore, there is a need and responsibility on the part of parents or a guardian to keep a check on their children.
Impact of the internet on children
With the continued improvement and ease with which one can access the internet, it has become even easier for children to find their way on the “World Wide Web”. A child is just one click away from going to a website of his/ her choice. Although, browsing the internet helps children finish their projects, obtain much needed information to assist in their studies, various other activities etc., everything comes at a cost. The internet is known to have both positive and negative effects on a child’s development and growth. Most of the children who are not yet mature may find it difficult to differentiate between fantasy and reality and in turn react or respond irrationally after viewing certain content on the internet. With the increase in forms of new technology, children are growing more dependent on the internet without being aware of its negative influence on them.
Inappropriate content on internet
Without parental safeguard and monitoring, children can easily get access to inappropriate content such as pornographic websites, sexual content, violent content on video streaming websites etc. Video content on many streaming websites contain high levels of sexual content without any information about sexual risks. This kind of content in most cases negatively influences the behaviour of children.
Fast internet also implies uninterrupted gaming. With the development of gaming technology, the library of online games has gone from strength to strength. Online gaming is another area where if parents do not monitor their child, the child may get addicted. Many games come with additional features which attract the interest of children who then feel tempted to splash their parents’ money on such games. Certain games stop at a certain stage in the game and only allow continuation if the child pays for additional content i.e. downloadable content (DLC). These kinds of tricks are played on children to continue to maintain their game engagement at its highest level. This is not healthy as it will affect the health of children in the long run. Some of the effects include increase in risk of obesity, aggressive behaviour because of violent or dark content, anxiety, social isolation etc. Besides, there have been games such as “Blue Whale” which forced children to commit suicide because of their inability to complete certain tasks in the game.
Despite its intended purpose to help connect people around the world, social media has had its fair share of negative effects. Activities including exchange of violent and hateful content, public display of sexual content without the concerned person’s consent etc. causes profound negative effects on the children such as fear of missing out, cyberbullying, anxiety, depression etc.
Internet Safety Measures
Let us understand a list of safety measures that parents must undertake so that their children are not exposed to inappropriate content while their personal information is protected.
Make sure the child’s privacy is safe
Parents must see to it that they accompany their child every time he or she wishes to set up an account on social media or any other site. The idea is to educate your child on the importance of privacy of their personal information. The parent must set his or her child’s settings to private. Many websites set the privacy settings to public by default and therefore one must make sure it is changed to private because a public account could expose the personal information to hackers or intruders.
Parental Control settings
Parental control settings help the parents to check what content or which sites their children access. Computer operating systems (OS), internet browsers and various kinds of sites such as video streaming sites, social media site, gaming app or site, have the parental control feature enabling the parents to dictate what content their child shall have access to.
In case of video streaming sites such as YouTube, the parent or child can sign up on YouTube. On signing up using your web browser, you will find your profile option on the top right corner of the screen, which when selected offers you a list of options including a “Restriction Mode” at the bottom of the list. Turning the Restriction Mode ‘On’ or “Activating restricted mode” hides potentially mature videos or inappropriate content based on the YouTube algorithm.
Similarly, Netflix has implemented parental control settings enabling parents whose children want to watch movies or tv shows to control what they see. On creating an account on behalf of your child, you may select the option “manage profile” and check the “viewing restrictions settings”. The viewing restrictions are catered to various age groups who will be shown content based on their age group namely content recommended for little kids, content for ages 7 and up, content for ages 13 and up, content for 16 and up and content for 18 and up. The parent may select the age group they find suitable for their child. Besides, the parent can create a 4-digit PIN to ensure that their child cannot see certain selective video content without the parents’ permission.
In the case of computer OS Windows 10, parental control settings allow the parents to protect their child’s safety from the moment the computer device is on. The parental controls enable parents to block apps and/ or games that they think may be inappropriate for their child. Besides, the parents may block sites that contain inappropriate and adult content. The parents must create a child account and can implement the aforesaid in content restrictions option in the account settings. The parent can also select an age limit in relation with games that the child can access.
Internet browsers including Google Chrome also offer parental control settings. You can go to your google account and select settings only to select ‘Add person’ in the option ‘People’. In addition, enter your child’s name and other details. Then you select a checkbox to control what websites the child can view and check which websites the child visits.
Finally, games offer parental controls settings that enable parents to control the activities using their child’s gaming account. Parents can select a spending limit for their child’s usage of games. In case of a Sony Playstation 4, for example, parents can set up a PSN account on behalf of their child and select certain restrictions under the parental control feature to decide how your child can communicate with other Playstation users and what content your child can view.
Set up lock screens with a pin or password for your child’s device
It is advisable for you to set up a lock screen with a password or pin on your child’s device so that he or she can use the device when you are around and under your observation.
Parents must spend more time teaching their child about the intricacies of online surfing and chatting especially when the kid is growing up. Work on having a good relationship with your child so that they do not hesitate to share any uncomfortable experiences they had online whether it be chatting with someone where that someone said or sent something inappropriate, or your child saw something inappropriate. Make sure you monitor your child’s internet surfing schedule as it will be easier to find out if you notice your child behaving unusually.
At present, there are two laws that govern and punish a person who uses children for pornographic purposes.
Information Technology Act, 2000
The Information Technology Act, 2000 (“IT ACT”) has the power to punish any person who broadcasts or passes on content online involving children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Someone who downloads, advertises or distributes the aforesaid content online will also be punished. The act by someone of forcing a child or children into an online relationship with other children for a sexual act also attracts punishment. Persons responsible for the aforesaid offences will be punished on first conviction with imprisonment extending to 5 years and fined for an amount extending to Rupees ten lakhs and in case of a subsequent conviction with imprisonment extending to 7 years and fined for an amount extending to Rupees ten lakhs.
POCSO Act, 2012
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (“POCSO Act”) has the power to punish any person who uses a child or children for pornographic purposes including using a child on the internet for sexual gratification. Persons responsible for the aforesaid acts will be imprisoned for a period of up to 5 years and imprisoned in case of second conviction for a period of up to 7 years and fined. The POCSO Act can also punish any person who stores pornographic content involving a child for the purpose of earning money with imprisonment extending to 3 years or with fine or with both.
Besides, here are the laws which provide protection against cybercrime in India:
Information Technology Act, 2000
The IT Act has the power to govern cybercrime in India.
Section 43 of the IT Act provides recourse in the form of compensation to an owner of a computer / computer system when a person or entity damages or destroys the computer or computer system belonging to such owner.
Section 66 of the IT Act punishes the person who dishonestly or fraudulently commits the act referred in Section 43, with imprisonment for a term extending to 3 years or with fine extending to Rs. 5 lakh or with both.
Section 66B, 66C & 66D of the IT Act punishes a person who:
- Section 66B: by dishonest means, receives or retains stolen computer resources knowingly, with imprisonment for a term extending to 3 years or with fine extending to Rs. 1 lakh or with both.
- Section 66C: by fraudulent or dishonest means uses the electronic signature or password of another person, with imprisonment extending to 3 years and with fine extending to Rs. 1 lakh.
- Section 66D: by means of any communication device or computer cheats by impersonation, with imprisonment extending to 3 years and fine extending to Rs. 1 lakh.
Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”)
The IPC also punishes those who are involved in acts of identity thefts and cyber fraud. The concerned sections under the IPC include Section 464 (Making a false document or false electronic record), Section 465 (Punishment for forgery), Section 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating i.e. forged electronic record), Section 469 (Forgery for purpose of harming reputation i.e. forged electronic record), Section 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record).
Cybercrime is an offence involving targeting or attacking a computer or computer network with the objective of meeting an illegal activity such as committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography, software vulnerability exploits or social engineering.
Cybercrime Case Laws
The Bank NSP Case
This case was about a management trainee of a bank who was planning to get married. The trainee and his fiance interacted largely using the company’s computers. Eventually, the two went their separate ways. However, the girl set up a fraudulent email address called “Indian bar associations” and sent emails to the trainee’s bank’s foreign clients using the bank’s computer. Due to this Act, the bank lost many clients and as a result the clients filed a case against the bank in court. It was ordered that the bank had committed the offence and was held liable for sending the said emails to the clients since the source of the emails were the bank.
Cosmos Bank Cyber Attack
This case was pertaining to a cyber attack on Cosmos Bank in Pune. It was an attack that rattled the banking industry in India since the hackers embezzled Rs. 94.42 crores from Cosmos Cooperative Bank Ltd. in Pune. The hackers attacked the said bank’s ATM server and collected information of various visa and rupay debit cardholders. Hacker gangs from across 28 countries emptied money from the accounts by withdrawal as soon as they gained access.
Hack of Aadhar Software
In early 2018, hackers hacked into the Aadhar database and accessed the personal information of over 1.1 billion Aadhar cardholders. UIDAI stated that the information leakage of Individual Aadhar card holders included Aadhar, PAN, mobile numbers, IFSC codes, among other things.
With the advent of technology, there has been an increase in the forms or types of devices used by children thus making it easier for them to access or browse the internet regardless of the time or place. The vast array of types of devices has in turn made it difficult for the parents to monitor or protect their child from accessing inappropriate content on the internet. However, parents must implement a minimum set of precautionary or monitoring measures where possible such as employing parental control settings or features to monitor the browsing activities of their child. Besides, parents must teach their children about internet safety and guide them about the dangers of the internet because in this day and age, online education is of utmost importance.
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