On July 28, the Class 9 students of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Korattur were in for a rude shock amid their online classes. A hacker broke into the class and made obscene comments before the children. The newly-formed Anna Nagar cybercrime unit is investigating the case, but the incident has opened discussion on digital hygiene and mental impact of such incidents on children.
According to Sai Krishna, chairman, Global Cyber Security Forum, such attacks are frequent across the nation and could be attributed to the poor digital hygiene followed by users. Online video conference apps are mostly based abroad, with online servers in various countries, which makes most interactions very vulnerable, he said.
“Users need to read the terms and conditions of these video-sharing apps before agreeing to use it, no matter how lengthy. End-to-end encryption is key to ensure that the students are safeguarded from such attacks. Also, additional security software must be installed on devices for an extra layer of protection,” he said.
Such incidents are traumatic for children adding to the stressors of digital learning, said Dr Srinivasan Jayaraman, clinical psychologist, Rainbow Children’s Hospital. “While children under eight might not be aware enough to know what is happening when there is a cyberattack, older children are more aware and can be deeply affected. It can make the online classroom feel unsafe for them. Many parents have also expressed fears for such incidents,” he said.
In a bid to continue classes during the pandemic, many institutions have gone digital in a short time without the right cyber safety measures intact, said Krishna. “In America, there are laws in place where teachers are trained on cyber safety before taking up class. Similar training seminars must be taken for teachers, some of whom don’t even realise when students are commenting on the chatbox during a video lesson. Laws must be put in place in an educational and digital front to ensure that teachers are taught how to keep online classes safe,” he said.