The Delhi government has directed schools in the national capital to sensitise students and parents about cyberbullying and online threats during COVID-19 pandemic and how to protect children from these risks.
The teaching and learning activities moved online since March last year when a nationwide lockdown was imposed in view of the pandemic.
In a letter to school heads, the Directorate of Education (DoE) said school education has shifted from the carefree days of learning together in the safe school environment to the online mode of gaining knowledge during COVID-19.
“The internet spaces are growing and multiplying and data security, privacy and protection is inadequate to keep a check on this. It is important that everyone is aware of the risks that could be associated with being connected to internet,” the Directorate of Education (DoE) said in a letter to schools.
“In addition, the students need to be warned against these risks and it is extremely important for us to ensure that every possible step is taken towards giving our children safe spaces to learn that keep their innocence and cater to their curiosity in a non-harmful way,” it added.
The Directorate said a study has been conducted by India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) regarding online exploitation of children and increase in activities related to child sexual abuse material which indicates a sharp rise in demand for online child pornography during lockdown.
“Hence, it is imperative to make children and their parents aware about the safe use of internet,” it said.
The DoE has asked schools to refer to guidelines on “safe online learning in times of COVID-19” which were jointly developed by the NCERT and UNESCO.
The booklet containing the guidelines was released by Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal in June last year. The booklet is aimed to “sanitise” the digital space and ensure that all stakeholders including teachers, students, and parents are safe as moved to digital modes.
The book informs students about what cyberbullying is, what are dos and don’ts of cyberspace as well as also gives a brief about the laws in the Indian jurisdiction to protect students and parents in case of any mishappening online.
It also shares counter cyberbullying practices along with helpline numbers to contact in case of an incident.
“Heads of all schools are directed to share this information with teachers, students and parents through sms or WhatsApp groups or by any other possible means which are being used to reach out to children and parents,” the DoE said.