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Analysis

Updated on: Monday, January 10, 2022, 08:52 AM IST

'Bulli Bai' app case: Parents must keep tabs on children's online activities, writes D Sivanandhan

Representative Image
 | Pixabay

Representative Image | Pixabay

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The first week of 2022 saw the hydra-headed monster called ‘Cyber Crime’ raise its ugly head and reveal its most dreaded side to the country. While hundreds of women found their photos (without their knowledge) put up online on the ‘Bulli Bai’ App, the Mumbai Police and the Delhi Police in separate operations arrested four people for their alleged involvement in this horrific crime.

Out of the arrested, one is a girl who has just turned 18 and the other three are young men of 20 and 21 years of age.

The alleged mastermind Neeraj Bishnoi is a mere 20-year old lad. This scenario is what experts have always been fearing and raising an alarm about. Unfortunately, their worst fears have come true. A 20-year-old boy, a second-year Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech) student, studying in the Vellore Institute of Technology, Bhopal, is believed to be the brain behind his horrendous crime.

And the other three, Vishal Kumar Jha is a 21-year-old engineering student from Bihar. Mayank Rawat is 20- year-old and is a third-year Bachelor of Art student from Delhi University. He is from Kotdwar in Uttarakhand. While Shweta Singh, 18, who has recently passed her 12th standard, is from Uttarakhand.

As per media reports, all four belong to average middle-class Indian families. The cases registered against them will be investigated and the law will take its own course, but, what needs to be highlighted is the fact that all the four accused had access to laptops, internet and smartphones and none of the family members were aware of what these youngsters were up to.

The accused’s family members have expressed utter shock and anger that their child has been arrested. Their claim is that their child is innocent but at the same time, they have said that they had no idea what their child was doing on the laptop or internet. This is the biggest flaw which needs to be addressed at the earliest if we have to ensure that more and more youngsters don’t resort to any kind of illegal activity on the internet.

The alleged mastermind Neeraj Bishnoi’s father told the media that his son used to spend most of his time on the laptop and was not a criminal and that he could not have possibly done what he has been accused of.

Whether he was involved in any criminal activity will be decided by the court of law, but the mere fact that the police traced him and identified him as one of the creators of the app indicates there surely was something fishy going on. In fact, as per media reports, the laptop which Bishnoi was using was actually given to him by the state government as a reward for being an outstanding student.

As per reports, Neeraj had scored 86% in his 10 Std and 82% in his 12th Std exam. Similarly, families of all the other arrested three accused have claimed that their ward is innocent. However, families of all three accused have reportedly stated that the accused used to spend a lot of time on the laptop and internet and they have no idea what they were doing online.

This is an issue which plagues the majority of the families across the country -- parents are unable to keep tabs on their child’s internet and online activities beyond a point. Most parents are able to keep a check till their child is 14-15 years old, after that there is either reluctance on the part of the parents or the child becomes more efficient in hiding online activities. In 2021, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) conducted a survey of school children across six states in the country.

The study revealed some disturbing numbers:

  • 42.9% of children surveyed between the ages of eight and 17 had their own social media accounts.

  • 37% had Facebook accounts and 45.50% had their own Instagram handles.

  • Of all the 10-year-old kids who were surveyed, 38% had Facebook accounts (as per Facebook, minimum age required to open a Facebook account is 13).

  • Of all the 10-year-old kids who were surveyed, 24% had their own Instagram accounts.

  • 52.8% of kids were using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp for chatting.

  • 30% of children between the age group of eight and 17 had individual smartphones.

  • Around 70% of children used smartphones before going to sleep.

  • 24% of children used smartphones while they were in bed, before going to sleep. All this is quite clear that as a nation and a society we are facing a much bigger and dangerous pandemic than the coronavirus.

Our younger generation, which is the very backbone of nation-building, is plagued with the smartphones, internet, laptop, social media and online world. We have to make a conscious effort to keep a check on this else it will have disastrous effects on the coming generations.

Tips to keep a check on your child's activities online

  • Ensure parental control features are activated on all devices at all times.

  • Keep a close watch on browser history. n Keep the screen access to bare minimum.

  • Children should not have individual and exclusive smartphones and other devices atleast till the time they attain 14-15 years of age.

  • Online gaming and shopping should be discouraged at all times.

  • If you find any suspicious activity on any device, speak to your child in confidence and if need be seek expert advice.

  • If the child has not done anything untoward then report the matter to the authorities immediately, so that required action can be taken.

  • Access to social media platforms should be limited and under supervision. Keep a close watch on files like photos, videos, etc being shared on these platforms

(The writer is the director-general of police (DGP) (Retired) Maharashtra, Former Police commissioner of Mumbai and ex-chief of the Elite Mumbai Crime Branch. He is also an award-winning author)

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Published on: Monday, January 10, 2022, 08:51 AM IST
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