The lockdown imposed due to the pandemic has forced children to 'live' online. They are forced to rely on the internet for their academic work as well as play since playgrounds and other outdoor activities are either out of bounds or are restricted during the pandemic. Now, it is the dark corners of the internet that their caregivers must worry about, cyber experts as well as psychiatrists point out.
The probability of children getting addicted to the internet, including pornographic sites is high, as is that of their being tricked into cyber crimes, experts caution.
Every year, cybercrimes against children and women have been rising at almost 100 per cent. This has further increased during the lockdown, said a police officer. As the case toll has started to mount, the government has been improving its cybermonitoring but unless people take sufficient precaution, this case toll is not going to drop, the officer added.
The current scenario has given sexual predators, paedophiles and other criminals a way to zoom in on their vulnerable targets.
"We have already received cases of sextortion, where an attractive woman is used to honeytrap the victim. After befriending the victim, the woman videocalls them and strips herself in front of her web camera and urges the victime to perform sexual acts and records everything. This video is later used to extort and most times, such cases go unreported, as parents do not complain, out of embarrassment," said cyber security expert Pushkar Zantey.
In many cases, parents are not even aware of their children's social media activity, which could land the minors in a legal spot, cyber experts warn.
Cyber criminals too have modified their modus operandi in keeping with the times. However, the nature of the crime remains the same, except that now, offenders are using technology to get close to children. With bouncing Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and internet-based calls, it has become all the more difficult for law enforcement officials to nab the culprits.
For every child, internet use in the lockdown has more or less become mandatory because of schoolwork but parents must make it a point to keep a strict watch on their children's internet activities, limiting use to academic needs. They must encourage children to read and also engage with them by playing games and keep them occupied in other activities, experts urge.
"Parents should keep a strict vigil on their children's internet activities, what they are searching on the net, their screen time and limit usage to necessary things. Also, parents should not allow their children to play violent games," said Dr Balsing Rajput, DCP Maharashtra Cyber department.