Opportunities with threats
Digital technologies are here to stay in increasingly interconnected world, the mobile phones are any indication. They have become affordable and accessible for a major proportion of the Indian population. The fast expanding market is characterized by increasingly cheaper handsets and pricing incentives from the service providers. Urban areas have shown exceptional uptake and the rural areas are now showing exemplary expansion.
The digital technologies have an important role in national socio-economic development policies, and the Government of India’s flagship Digital India provides a definite thrust in their promotion and expansion. These technologies are ubiquitous in various spheres of daily life of Indians, be it communication, banking, filing of taxes, sale and purchase of goods and services, and other financial transactions. The range of functions is expected to grow manifold and Indian languages are increasingly being employed in the apps to make them widely used.
However, many users use the gadgets to access services without adequate knowledge of the intricacies of digital technologies. They do not pay much attention to “the fine print” in the contract offered by the service providers. In the process, they remain unaware of the risks and threats they are vulnerable to. Mobile phones, tablets, and computers have similar as well as distinct features that the users need to be aware of. Some of the communication channels are “one to many” (e.g., emails, Facebook, Twitter) while some are “one-to-one” (e.g., WhatsApp).
Critical thinking, safe behavior and responsible participation by the users across board becomes imperative while the Government and its various arms and the IT sector are obliged to take measures to promote cyber safety and the responsible use of digital technologies. Unwary users are at risk in several ways even though various search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask), social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest) and messengers (e.g., WhatsApp, Skype) while providing diverse services are constantly seeking ways to offer safe experience for the users.
Against this backdrop, children and young people are and will be major consumers of digital technologies. As they stand to benefit, they are equally at risk. Controlling access and utilization is not feasible. Promoting resilience among them, i.e. the ability to deal with the risks and cope with the ill-effects with minimal damage, is likely to be a more effective and lasting strategy.
Why it is important to be a “digital citizen”?
The notion of digital citizenship is gaining currency as people are taking to cyberspace due to the promise of limitless opportunities. As the cyberspace is arguably not limited by the national boundaries and jurisdiction of domestic legislation, a new kind of social contract is called for. The starting point of digital citizenship are equal digital rights and supporting electronic access, which are critical in view of the Government of India’s major boost to their use in advancing its policy agenda. Kerala has declared that internet is a basic human right and all citizens should have access to WiFi.
Digital citizenship is primarily about using technology appropriately and creating a culture where technology users are able to protect themselves. It has the following nine elements:
- Digital access: Help to provide and expand access to technology by recognizing that some that may have limited access and making efforts to ensure that no one is denied digital access.
- Digital commerce: Make the users aware of the issues associated with legitimate and legal exchanges using digital technologies and how they can be effective consumers in a new digital economy. While the mainstream availability of Internet purchases of goods and services has improved, an equal amount of goods and services which are in conflict with the laws or morals of some countries are surfacing (e.g., illegal downloading, pornography, and gambling).
- Digital communication: Communicate or exchange information with other people electronically, through emails, cell-phones and instant messaging, constantly and without delay. The technology users are expected to make appropriate decisions when faced with so many different digital communication options. But many of them do not.
- Digital literacy: Educate people in a new way so that they are able to acquire high level of information literacy skills, including sophisticated searching and processing skills, which are required against the backdrop of rapid diffusion of ICT. Learners should be empowered to learn in a digital society, i.e. to learn anything, anytime, anywhere. As new technologies emerge, learners need to learn how to use that technology quickly and appropriately.
- Digital etiquette: Netiquette or etiquette on the internet involves respecting others’ privacy and not doing anything online that will annoy or frustrate others. Email, online chat and newsgroups are the three areas where good netiquette is highly stressed. Do not spam other users with unwanted e-mails or flood them with messages. Observe how people communicate with each other after joining a newsgroup or online chat room before jumping in.
- Digital law: Ethics is integral to digital citizenship. Abide by the laws of society. Users need to understand that stealing or causing damage to other people’s work, identity, or property online is a crime. They need to be aware that certain rules apply to anyone who works or plays online. Hacking into others information, downloading illegal music, plagiarizing, creating destructive worms, viruses or creating Trojan Horses, sending spam, or stealing anyone’s identify or property is unethical.
- Digital rights and responsibilities: Use technology in a manner that respects the rights of others, including the right to privacy and free speech, that come with corresponding responsibilities. In a digital society, rights and responsibilities must work together for everyone to be productive. Basic digital rights must be addressed, discussed, and understood and users must help define how the technology is to be used in an appropriate manner.
- Digital health and wellness: Be aware of the inherent dangers of digital technologies, consequences of excessive use (e.g., eye safety and repetitive stress syndrome), sound ergonomic practices, and psycho-social issues that are becoming increasingly prevalent.
- Digital security (self-protection): Protect information and equipment through responsible behavior (“good practices”), technological safeguards (e.g. access control, privacy settings, virus protection, backup of data, and surge control) and disposal of equipment.
Source : NCPCR's Being Safe Online - Guideline and standard content for raising awareness among children, parents, educators and general public.