facebook pushes for online safety of children
June 17, 2021 (2 years ago)
The new Facebook initiative, launched in India, is aimed at protecting children from exposure to inappropriate content. According to a Facebook spokesman, the new feature allows parents to set up filters on their Facebook accounts that will block any content that could be considered inappropriate. The feature will not apply to every status post or a page, but will focus on a limited number of pages. The idea behind the new feature is to provide an online safety check for children. It is hoped that the initiative will encourage parents to use the internet with caution.
India has a poor childline. The age of chilling is 11 in rural areas and below. It is surprising then that sexual activity is not covered when children are enrolled in childline. Facebook has taken this gap by introducing an official page for chilling - but it is only one page and very limited in its content. There was no information available on what kind of activities it prohibits and whether the pages are available in rural areas only or are available all over India.
The new initiative is likely to face opposition from some quarters. The new childline website was launched in the UK a while ago but faced a lot of criticism because of restrictions on what it can say. The Indian government has not issued a similar statement and there is no indication whether it will issue a similar ban. This could be seen as a snub for the Indian government's apparent failure to combat child sexual abuse in the National Investigation Agency or the Enforcement Bureau of India, which is probing child sex abuse cases.
However, many Internet service providers have welcomed the new website. They feel that it is a vital addition to help parents monitor their children's online activity. "The world is seeing more children being sexually abused and families need to do something to protect their kids," says Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, executive director of the Cellular Industry Association of India. Gopalakrishnan says that childline will work closely with parents and institutions to create a site that will address the needs of chilling subscribers. The site will enable parents to record queries and complaints about anything they feel is inappropriate. It will then be forwarded to the concerned authority.
Safety of children on the internet is a major concern these days, both at home and at school. Earlier, the concept of chilling was associated with the concept of parental control, which meant parents could block inappropriate content and would also have the power to ban other social networking sites. Now, the Childline website is designed to focus more on providing safety and support to children. It will offer information about violence and sexual abuse, which are often not covered by media or TV. Gopalakrishnan says that the new approach will make the website more useful.
"The main thrust of this new approach is to bring down the ratio of people dying or becoming victims of crime on the internet. This is a very important aspect of online safety, because there are several hundred million people using Facebook and many more accessing it daily. Safety is now the single most important issue for any company on the internet," says Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, secretary general of the Cellular Industry Association of India. He says that childline has proved its worth in reducing the ratio of children who become victims of crime or child trafficking.
Facebook also plans to introduce a feature that allows school-aged children to chat with their friends using private messaging facilities. But Facebook isn't the only company considering ways to safety of children on the internet. YouTube, too, has an infant safety video feature that allows parents to monitor what their children view. The Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children has started an interactive program called "oneday." It gives parents an option of reporting inappropriate content to the site's administrators or watching it online if they feel it could be harmful to their children.
One thing is certain. Facebook and other companies have taken the initiative to bring safety measures to bear in order to keep children safe. But it's still up to individual parents to ensure that they do the right thing by protecting their children from harm. According to Gopalakrishnan, Facebook's chief security officer, children need to be encouraged to report anything they see online even if they feel it may be harmless. The best way to do this is through age-specific applications that can let them know that a website is not suitable for them to visit or use. Safety on the internet can never be guaranteed but Facebook's latest moves certainly place the company in a good position to improve it.
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