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Should digital wellness be part of the school curriculum?

A new study shows that a majority of Indians want schools to educate children on online safety

Photo by Beci Harmony on Unsplash 
Photo by Beci Harmony on Unsplash 

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As the covid-19 pandemic forced schools in urban India to pivot to virtual classes, one found children spending an inordinate amount of time online. With that, the risks of cyber bullying and harassment increased like never before. After a year-and-a-half of remote learning, parents are now more aware of the need to sensitise their children about digital safety. And they wish for schools to be equal stakeholders in the process. In fact, according to a new study by McAfee Corp—which focuses on personal security for consumers—89 per cent Indians believe that schools should educate children on online safety, with 62 per cent of the respondents wishing for digital wellness and protection to have its own curriculum. Several households, where members have had to take up distance learning, have purchased new security and protection technology.

For parents, some of the areas of concern are illegal content (55 per cent), sharing of personal information (53 per cent), exposure to scams (53 per cent), cyber-bullying (52 per cent) and misinformation (49 per cent). “With students as well as teachers now operating from lesser controlled environments, the need to educate them on basics such as phishing, cyberbullying, and inculcating overall cybersecurity hygiene is imperative. Educational institutions must approach cybersecurity holistically, particularly now that technology pervades nearly every facet of a child’s life,” elaborates Judith Bitterli, senior vice president of Consumer at McAfee.

Also read: Mexico says 5.2 million dropped out of school in the pandemic

The report also shares some tips to stay safe while learning online. Kids are cautioned against clicking on unsolicited links in emails, text messages and pop-ups, and not to go overboard with sharing personal information. “Take into consideration removing the names of family members, school, hometown, and birthdays. Use a VPN when children are accessing online learning services from home to protect the privacy of the internet connection with bank-level encryption to stop hackers stealing personal information like passwords or data,” it states. 

With fake news and misinformation emerging as a big risk, it’s important for parents to have dinnertime conversations around the credibility of a particular piece of information and ways to spot phishing scams. “Prefer two-factor authentication to add an additional layer of protection between you and a potential attacker. As members of the family often share devices, it is critical that security software is present on all endpoints, minimising the risk of attack vectors,” the report further adds.

Also read: Teens can now ask for removal of their pictures from Google

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