The limitless cyberworld has its own challenges of security and safety for the users. Ramendra Kumar’s short story outlines some of the essential safety precautions we must follow to enjoy the benefits of the internet.
“Naani, Naanu is not letting us use the net,” screamed nine-year-old Payal as she ran into the living room where Naani was sitting and reading. She was followed by her cousins Nikhil and Raji.
The kids had come to spend the summer vacation with their maternal grandparents, Gajendra Rai and Lalita. They lived with their twenty-seven-year-old daughter Madhu, a software engineer.
Naani asked, “Where’s your Naanu?”
“Naanu is on his computer, sending friend requests on FB,” Nikhil replied.
Naani marched purposefully towards Naanu’s study.
“Why aren’t you letting these kiddos use the net?”
“Lalli, I don’t think you are aware of the dangers of the net?”
“Of course I am. Don’t forget I know more about cyberspace than you!”
“That’s not true,” Naanu said, raising his voice a bit.
“So guys, you have started arguing again.” It was Madhu. “What’s the issue this time?”
Naani, ignoring the interruptions from Naanu, explained the scenario.
“I have an idea. Let us have lunch and then gather here. You all know the benefits of the internet. Now I’ll explain the dangers.”
After lunch, everyone settled down around Naanu’s computer.
“The first and most important thing you have to remember is that the internet or the virtual world is very much like the real world. There are both safe and dangerous things out there,” Madhu said.
“What can be dangerous on the net?” asked Nikhil.
“Like you have bullies in school, you have people who torment you on the net. They are called Trolls.”
“What do they do, didi?” Payal wanted to know.
“They follow you around on the internet and write mean things about you?”
“What can we do in this case?” asked Payal.
“If that boy or girl is a friend, you can ‘unfriend’ him. If the troll persists with the mean behaviour then you can take the help of an adult to block him and report abuse.”
“Didi, there is a lot of talk about hacking. Who is a hacker?” asked Payal.
“Very good question, Payal. To put it simply, a hacker is a type of criminal who breaks into your home through the computer rather than through the window.”
“I did not understand, didi?” It was Raji this time.
“A hacker uses computers to get unauthorized access to your data. He may then manipulate it, misuse it or may even destroy the data.”
“What is a computer virus, Madhu?” Naanu asked.
“A computer virus, much like a flu virus, is designed to spread from host to host and can replicate or copy itself.”
“Didi, how do we protect ourselves from all these dangers – hackers and viruses?” Nikhil wanted to know.
“The first and most important step is to have effective antivirus software installed in your computer. The second thing is to keep changing your password.”
“I would love doing that?” Raji declared. “My current password is ‘coolraaji’. I’ll change it to ‘awesomeraaji’.”
“Raji, you are not supposed to announce your password even if we are all family. Besides, you should never give it to anyone online.”
“Ok, didi!” Payal nodded.
“Another little advice I would like to give you is: What you don’t do offline, don’t do online.”
“What do you mean, didi?” Asked Payal.
“Will you go up to a stranger in a restaurant and start talking to him?”
“Of course not!” replied Nikhil.
“Then don’t send a friend request to someone you don’t know and also don’t accept one from a stranger. Also, keep in mind that what you see online may not be the same offline.”
“I couldn’t understand, didi,” Raji said.
“Some people resort to Catfishing. They create a false personality to lure children into making friends.”
Seeing the confused expression on the faces of her cousins, Madhu explained.
“The FB profile of a stranger might show him as a ten-year-old girl with a dimpled smile. In real life, he might turn out to be a fifty-year-old rogue who is nasty to children.”
“I would like to add that do not open e-mail attachments from strangers. Also never share your address, phone number and details about your family online.” Madhu paused and looking around asked, “Any questions?”
Everyone shook their heads.
“Guys, if you agree to follow what Madhu mausi has told, then I don’t mind allowing you to use the net from 1 to 5 in the afternoon,” announced Naanu.
“YAAY!” they chorused and the three of them hugged Naanu.
“And as a special treat to Madhu, I have decided to make some hot pakodas for you,” Naanu declared. And then added, “Provided your Naani makes some super spicy chutney!”
Naani smiled and nodded.
“My latest password is going to be hotpakodaspicychutney,” whispered Raji and Nikhil smacked his lips.
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