Pitfall of virtual education: Online predators may sexually exploit students

Online predators may sexually exploit studentsOnline predators may sexually exploit students

  • Online sexual exploitation has a significant impact on a child's mental health, says Dr V Badarinarayana of NIMHNS
  • Among others, it would make children face anxiety, depression, disturbed sleep, perceived inattention etc

Hyderabad: Lack of awareness, worried about their children's education, negligence on the part of the State Education department to put in safeguards for online schooling to children and some private schools indiscriminately adopting social media platforms seem to push children into the grey areas of the internet.

Expressing concern over this digital shift taking place, in the name of online education, the Depart of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, of National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHNS), Bengaluru cautioned parents, schools and governments stressing on addressing the issue.

According to Seema Agarwal, of Hyderabad School Parents Association (HSPA), responding to an RTI query, the NIMHNS said that there are not many well-conducted studies on the issue.

However, online learning is one way for children to keep up with their academics. But, the digital shift bringing along with it, firstly, a large number of children and families do not have access to the technology necessary for digital classes.

"The second concern is the safety of children as they are at risk, to be sexually exploited by online predators. Therefore there is a need for monitoring children's online behaviour," it said.

Adding, Medical Superintendent, NIMHNS, Dr V Badarinarayana said, that children faced sexual exploitation through grooming can have a significant impact on a child's mental health.

The NIMHNS warning is important against the backdrop of several schools adopting social media platforms for their online schooling and children getting adapted to the same. In turn, this might land them in increased screen usage for non-academic activities, especially social media platforms.

Such practices among others would make children face anxiety, depression, disturbed sleep, perceived inattention etc, the NIMHNS cautioned.

However, repeated pleas by the parents to the officials of the Telangana State Education Department (TSED) and the Education Minister to address the issue of online schooling by schools only to collect fees from parents has so far met with no response, the HSPA said.

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