Be Aware: Safe Spaces for Children Online By Muhammad Farooq
People are usually aware of thebenefits of internet but very few knowof its dark side. Online risk is a global phenomenon however, from Pakistan’s perspective we face additional challenges e.g. Uploading/posting of blasphemous and sectariancontent. Theseare sensitive subject matters and require particular consideration to avoid propagation of hate.Keeping in view the gravity of matter,it is imperative to sensitize our social media users (i.e.youngsters, parents, teachers,and other key stakeholders) about the issuesand timely adoption ofpropermeasures to save our generation from further harm. Inorder to achieve thedesiredresults, a collective effort is required to be madeby all stakeholders.
Youngstersare vulnerable inthe online world and parents/guardians supervising them are not fully aware about online risks, community guidelines of Social Media platforms and punishments mentioned in local laws (i.e. PECA, PPC etc.).Parents and teachers need to be watchful of their kids/studentsonline activities especially if they are exhibitingaggressive behavior, usually resulting from seeing inappropriate content or playing online fighting/War games. Kids/students at this stage requireproper counselingby their parents/teachers from time to time along with adoption ofproven measuressuch as: avoid giving them handheld devices and allow them to use PCs placed in a common area visible to all,and replacing online gaming facilities with physical activities. Most importantly, parents must spare time for theirchildren, be friendly and educate them about online risks and allow them to discuss their issues without judgment otherwise, they may confide in strangers/online predators. Educational institutions should also stepupandraise awareness throughorganizing seminars/webinars, workshops etc. In addition, using parental control software and built in safety features of SM applicationsiseffective in filtering inappropriate content/apps, limiting screen time, observing online activities etc.(List of parental control software is available at PTA website: www.pta.gov.pk). For Social Media users’ guidance PTA has also placed a list containing links/URLs of Community Standards of major SM platforms having information/guidelines about their important policies to be followed while posting content over SM platforms or sharing with others.
Moreover,Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA)wasapproved in 2016,which empowersPTA to control circulation of unlawful contentover internet/social media and FIA toinvestigate cybercrime related issues. Public can report unlawful content to PTA for blocking through Complaint Management System (CMS): https://complaint.pta.gov.pk/RegisterComplaint.aspx or PTA CMS mobile appand cybercrime related issues toFIA Cybercrime Wing (CCW)forinitiating legal action against offender.
It is important to mention that all popular SM companies and their systems are hostedoutside Pakistan on encrypted HTTPssites. PTA after analyzing received complaints takes up the matter with concerned SM platform for removal/blocking of reported content. For quick resolution of the matter,SM platformsalways prefer direct communication with complainant since it is easier to seekfurther information (if required) directly from complainant. Links of popular SM complaint reporting procedure/mechanismare below: