Risks On The Internet – Indian Context

Internet Crime in India has begun, although still at a nascent stage. It is wise to be aware of the dangers which Indian children may encounter  & what precautions you can take. 

1) CHATTING – Indian children too have been bitten by the chat bug. They forget the age old advice ” DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS”.  Children may encounter people in chat areas who are mean, insulting, abusive, use vulgar and provocative words & sometimes maybe dangerous.

Teenagers are particularly at risk because they are more likely to participate in online discussions for friendship etc. Although most people in chat rooms appear decent and respectful, some may not be. It is very easy to fool people online. Cyberstalkers & Paedophiles are now present in chat rooms even in India.

Pedophiles are those who intentionally prey upon children. On the web they pretend to be young children themselves, earn the child’s trust and gradually seduce them into sexual or indecent acts. Often this happens as the unsuspecting parent sits in the next room. Children are easy targets as they are innocent, trusting and curious.
Although not very likely, this risk does exist  that while on chat, a child might provide information or arrange an encounter that could risk his or her safety or the safety of other family members. A Child may waste a lot of time in chatrooms and could increase your telephone expense if your internet works through a telephone line. Also this could sometimes also lead to chat-addiction.

Did You Know ? : MSN decided to shut down chat rooms – September 24, 2003 . The decision is in response to the growing concern about the safety of children who visit these chat rooms that are full of sexually explicit language, cyber sex and sometimes pedophiles.

The recent trend amongst Indian children of sending their snaps via e-mails to strangers is dangerous. Once in the wrong hands, a photograph can  easily be used to harass or even blackmail a person. Such cyber crimes have even been registered in India. The age old advice ” DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS” remains a golden rule.

More recent incidents involving Indian children……shocking and sad.!

2) SHARE TRADING ON THE WEB- In India it is now possible to buy and sell shares and securities over the Internet . If your child has access to your account and your brokerage password, it is possible that he or she might be able to conduct such a transaction. Keep an eye on this, as it could lead to legal and financial difficulties if things go wrong.

3) GAMBLING ONLINE – Some credit cards are valid outside India and can be used online to conduct a transaction.There are many sites on the web that allow people to gamble with real money or just “for fun.”  In some cases these sites may be operating legally in the jurisdiction where they are physically located but it is generally illegal (and inappropriate) for minors to gamble regardless of where they are.  Most online gambling sites require a person to use a credit card online or write a check to transfer funds. Some credit cards are valid outside India and could be misused online, so remember this.

4) Junk mail (called spam) & viruses. Viruses spare no one and know no boundries. Children may receive e-mails which may contain viruses, worms etc (even from known friends, though not intentionally). Sometimes people are unaware they have a computer virus and send it along unknowingly via e-mail attachments.  Since new viruses are created daily they may remain undetected by outdated anti virus softwares. Once in your PC these viruses could damage files or even sometimes make computers crash. It is advisable to keep updating your anti-virus protection and immediately delete spams (unsolicited e-mails). Be selective about posting your e-mail address publicly and invest in a good anti-virus program like Norton Anti-virus.Vandals have not even spared children and targetted them with specially made viruses, like the pokeman virus.

5) Pornography – Adult entertainment is the largest industry on the Internet. It is estimated that over half of internet traffic is pornographic.  An innocent keyword typed on some search engines or wrongly spelling a Web site’s name can lead children or adults into sites that are shocking and often difficult to escape. A child innocently researching a paper for school could may accidentally come across pornographic content due to its sheer abundance on the web.  Monitoring or blocking software which you install is a limited solution as new adult sites are launched daily in abundance. When children come across such sites, they may get upset, embarrassed, frightened or unfortunately even corrupted by them. This could affect the child’s psychology, self-esteem. Parental watch & control is always necessary, and should be consistent. It is always advisable to install filtering software which automatically block such sites and keep updating it thereafter.

6) NET ADDICTION or Internet Addiction Disorder– The net can make some people too dependant on it. There are varying opinions on the subject of Internet addiction. Some say that the Internet can be addicting, to the point that it disturbs one’s life and the lives of those around him.

Others say that there is no such thing as Internet Addiction Disorder– getting pleasure out of a computer is not the same as getting pleasure from cocaine or any other drug. Whether there is or is not a bona fide disorder, the Internet  is surely disrupting some people’s lives.

So, what can should parents do?

Although there have been some cases of Internet abuse (including Cyberstalking, morphing of photographs and  Paedophiles ) even in India, these cases are relatively less frequent. Of course, like most other crimes, many cases may going unreported. The fact that crimes are being committed online, however, is not a reason to avoid using these services. To tell children to stop using these services would be like telling them to forgo attending school because students are sometimes victimized there. And would they listen to you? Besides, even the future of Education and Business seems to be getting web-based.

A better strategy would be to instruct children about both the benefits and dangers of cyberspace and for them to learn how to be “net -wise” in order to better safeguard themselves in any potentially dangerous situation. Make sure the kids know it is okay to approach you if they receive strange or harassing e-mails that makes them uncomfortable or they accidentally get to a site you have told them is not appropriate. Let them know that you won’t get angry and that it isn’t their fault if they do get something strange or they find a site by accident. Establish the ground rules and let the kids clearly know what they are. Every family is different and every child is an individual, so there are no ‘magic rules’ to follow beyond the basics. The more open you are and the more you listen, the more likely they are to tell you what is going on. Most of all, set a good example by yourself visiting good site!


“The best way to assure that your children are having positive online experiences is to stay in touch with what they are doing.”

In addition, there are filtering features built into the popular Internet browsers (the software you use to access the World Wide Web) that empower parents to limit their children’s access only to those sites that have been rated appropriate for children. Other useful tools are software programs that block web sites, newsgroups, and chat areas that are known to be inappropriate for children. Most of these programs can be configured by the parent to filter out sites that contain nudity, sexual content, hateful or violent material, or that advocate the use of drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. Some can also be configured to prevent children from revealing information about themselves such as their name, address, or telephone number. You can find a directory of these filtering programs at www.safekids.com/filters.htm . There are now even special softwares which can even monitor chat online.

While technological child-protection tools are worth exploring, they’re not a panacea. Regardless of whether you choose to use a filtering program or an Internet rating system, the best way to assure that your children are having positive online experiences is to stay in touch with what they are doing. One way to do this is to spend time with your children while they’re online. Have them show you what they do, and ask them to teach you how to use the Internet or online service. You might be surprised at how much you can learn from your kids. By taking responsibility for your children’s online computer use, parents can greatly minimize any potential risks of being online.  Please do also visit our ‘Parents Zone’ for safety tips and our ‘Fun to learn Web-safety’ section for regular updates on Internet safety.


NO ONE has a right to harass, threaten and disturb you. Once harassment becomes a  threat against you, then the harasser has also broken the law and there are a number of steps you CAN take to deal with it including taking help of the Police department. Trying to work out what you have “done” to deserve this will get you nowhere – the attack or harassment will often appear as motiveless and you may have difficulty understanding the psychology of the harasser. With some kinds of online harassment it is better not to waste time trying to work out “why” and to concentrate rather on what you can do to protect yourself & how to end this nightmare.

Kids & Teens: You must tell your parents immediately! If you feel threatened by someone that you know your parents wouldn’t want you talking to in the first place, you MUST overcome your fears of “getting in trouble” for admitting you were talking to them, and tell your Parents that you’re in trouble. Don’t delay!  Tell them!

Adults: Tell your spouse and family, and be prepared for an uphill battle, sometimes this may last awhile.Don’t ever reply to provocative e-mails if you get them.

If anyone is harassing you or you kids by stalking them online  & has begun to disturb you or put your life at risks,  you must file a complaint with the Commissioner of Police in your city. The Police can be trusted for it’s competence. The Mumbai police recently (Novenber 2000) helped rescue a 16 year old boy who was kidnapped by a lady paedophile. She befriended him through a chat room.

You could also report harassment mails to your ISP (like VSNL etc) & your e mail provider (like hotmail, yahoo etc) &  take advice from your technical savvy friends. If you remember, even the creator of the ‘I love you’ virus was tracked down. So through the  I.P address a stalker does leave behind a trail & though difficult it may be possible to trace the stalker.

So remember, If you are being stalked, or harrased you don’t have to be a victim. And yes, If possible stay away from chat rooms. The Golden rule “Never talk to strangers” stays a golden rule in today’s Cyber world too !!


To know how to tackle unwanted E-mails from unknown people (called SPAM) visit http://computersathome.ciol.com/content/search/showarticle.asp?artid=17884

To know about The Information Technology Act of India visit http://www.nasscom.org

To get your child started on the internet, let him/her know more about Internet safety through games.

For more tips on Internet safety, visit our Parents Zone.