Fourteen-year-old Tanya rushes back home from school. No sooner does her mother opens the door, Tanya drops her bag and heads straight to grab her iPad.
While her mother tries to strike a conversation to know about her day at school, Tanya, a Class 10 student, logs onto Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp simultaneously, to connect with her friends.
Ignoring her mother, she uploads her pictures on social networking sites, while checking her friend’s statuses.
Tanya is not the lone one whose world entirely revolves around her friend’s social updates.
Her friend Shreya, a student of Class 9, can’t stop admiring herself in the mirror. She daily clicks pictures of herself in different poses and uploads them on social networking sites such as Facebook and Snapchat — a photo messaging application for uploading pictures and videos.
It may seem like the end of the story, but it’s the beginning.
The teenager after uploading her photographs, repeatedly urges her friends to ‘like’ them and write comments.
A large number of teenagers are daily hooked on to the internet showcasing the minutest of details — how her day passed, what’s latest, birthday party of a close pal and so on.
Internet is a virtual world for youngsters, but these innocent souls have no inkling of the dangers they expose themselves to.
The Chandigarh and SAS Nagar police claimed that the figures of online complaints have increased manifold in the last one year. The UT police received as many as 600 cyber-related complaints, including hacking of Facebook account and morphing of pictures.
The SAS Nagar police also received no less than 300 online complaints from Punjab, including SAS Nagar.
School teachers and counsellors said teenagers, who log on to the internet, are also harassed by their own friends.
“Girls approach us if somebody ridicules them online or posts defamatory or inflammatory comments. When one person comments on a picture or status, they are joined by several others. This makes for a chain of comments and disturbs the teenager’s mind. We counsel girls not to indulge in such activities,” says Sunanda Maini, teacher at DAV School, Sector 15.
IT experts, too, warn youngsters, particularly girls, to exercise caution.
“With so many social networking sites and other applications, youngsters should be aware how to use them. They need to be well-versed with cyber laws,” says Sukhjot Singh, an IT expert.
Stating that girls were becoming victims of cyber crime and a substantial number of complaints were received by them, Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, deputy inspector general of police (DIG), cyber crime cell, Punjab, said, “Another section of complaints hovers around lewd SMSs exchanged over mobile phones.”
Police sources say in a majority of cases — where pictures are morphed or uploaded on pornographic websites — the miscreants are known to the victims, who fearing social stigma, keep the issue under wraps instead of admitting their association with the culprits.
The Chandigarh police received as many as 600 cyber-related complaints, including hacking of Facebook account and morphing of pictures.
UT inspector-general of police (IGP) RP Upadhyaya says youngsters should exercise caution and avoid logging onto Facebook and other social networking sites at cyber cafes. “Youngsters should not share confidential information on social networking sites,” he adds.
To curb the ‘sexting’ trend in youngsters, Upadhyaya says, “The police circulated an SMS in April this year wherein parents of minor children were advised to keep a tab on them. In sexting, teenagers exchange pornographic pictures and videos.”
Youngsters should avoid logging onto Facebook and other social networking sites at cyber cafes. They should not share confidential information.
RP Upadhyaya, UT-IGP
Cracking the whip on fraudsters
There are various ways to track miscreants who indulge in hacking and post derogatory comments and pictures on social networking sites. If the company’s representatives and managers are non co-operative, the investigation process may be delayed. Experienced and trained staff track the IP address and other details. If need be, help of IT experts is taken.
Information Technology Act Section 663-year imprisonment or fine of up to Rs 2 lakh or both for online abuse.
Section 66-A Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, devices. The violators can also be booked under the Indian Penal Code sections of fraud and cheatingAdvisory
1. Do not share passwords, user names, account IDs or PINs with anyone.
2. Don’t post every small detail online. Put in public domain only what is important?
3. Protect your identity. One should ensure to make use of relevant passwords that are difficult to guess and hack. Instead come up with passwords that are longer and contains both letters and alphabets.
4. Avoid putting pictures on social networking sites, particularly girls, as these can be lifted and morphed.
5. On social networking sites, always accept friend requests of those you know or are mutual friends.
6. Never meet someone you met online without your parents’ consent.
What to report
2013: Number of Complaints
March 1: A minor boy had stored a dozen odd pornographic photographs on his mobile phone and shared it with his friends. A minor girl from Dehradun shared her obscene picture with a male friend in Panchkula, who circulated the photograph among 20 friends. Chandigarh police summoned the minor boys — students of Classes 9 and 10 — for counselling after the girl’s parents approached the police. However, police did not register a case as the girl’s parents did not want criminal proceedings in the matter.
August 1: A 35-year-old computer instructor, Sandeep, was booked under the Information Technology Act and charged with extortion for uploading sexual videos of a 24-year-old girl, with whom he allegedly had an affair. The videos, it is alleged, were shot by drugging the woman at a hotel in Sector 22. The accused was arrested.
August 7: A student, Vishal Tiwari, was booked for blackmailing a girl, whom he befriended on a social networking site. Vishal posed as a girl and became friends with the teenager on the site. After a few days, Vishal posed as the girl’s brother, whom the teenager was friends with. He blackmailed her saying he would inform her parents that she was friends with a boy. He also sent obscene messages to the girl. The accused has not been arrested till date.
August 7: A man uploaded objectionable pictures of a 30-year-old married woman from Punjab on the internet. The morphed pictures were allegedly uploaded on pornographic sites by Arvind Kumar (30), resident of Zirakpur. The police said Arvind allegedly morphed the pictures before uploading them on the internet. The act came to the light when a relative of the woman noticed her objectionable pictures. The accused has been arrested.
Social networking sites are being abused. Fake profiles of young girls are created. Their pictures are uploaded on pornographic sites. Girls, especially minors, should make minimal use of social media. Don’t share personal information and pictures. No mobile numbers or addresses should be displayed on the sites by youngsters, particularly girls. We daily receive 25 to 50 such cases from Punjab.Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, deputy inspector general of police, cyber crime cell, Punjab.
Tweens vulnerable, says McAfee report
They are young and vulnerable. But none of this stops teenagers from getting hooked on to the internet, and various social networking platforms, through multiple devices. They start quite early, earlier than most of us think or realise. On an average, Indian ‘tweens’ (between 8-12 years of age) are using 3-4 devices that can be internet-enabled. Almost half (45%) of the online tweens access internet after 8 pm, playing games on tablet or chatting with friends on mobiles (63%), according to a report — ‘Tweens and Technology Report 2013’ — released by McAfee recently. Despite the age eligibility for Facebook being 13 years, 3 in 4 (70%) tweens admitted to currently using Facebook. “Online tweens are potentially vulnerable to risky behaviour on the internet as 36% of online tweens have chatted to someone online that they did not know previously,” says the report. Though the report is based on a study conducted in seven cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Kolkata, a Chandigarh-based student counsellor says the trend and online behaviour among tweens and teenagers in the tricity are not very different, given the proliferation of such devices and eagerness among youngsters including girls, to be online.
Share your story
It’s a matter often discussed in drawing rooms, but seldom does it lead to introspection. HT invites readers — male and female — to write in with their experiences, personal and witnessed, of sexual harassment. You can choose to keep your identity hidden, and try to write in not over 250 words. Keep in mind, each story will add to the collective consciousness of a society that needs cleansing. Play your part. Talk to us at firstname.lastname@example.orgVoxpop
How safe are girls online? Internet is a virtual world. We cannot ignore it completely as we have to keep pace with the changing time. It should be used to gain knowledge and remain connected. Yes, it can be misused but we remain cautious and have privacy settings on our account. Anahita, student
We all friends remain connected with each other through social networking sites. Sometimes, we don’t have access to mobile phones. Then we connect with friends through Facebook and social media. Everything has its pros and cons. Shreshtha Sharma, student
Online is a medium through which we connect with our friends and keep ourselves updated on various issues. But teenagers should be careful while sharing information online. They should keep parents in the loop and never divulge personal details. Gautam Sushant, director, counselling institute
We must educate our children on how to use the internet and other social media. Parents should also supervise their children’s activities. Youngsters are a vulnerable lot and should be made aware on cyber laws and regulations. Sunanda Maini, teacher, DAV School, Sec 15
We cannot completely cut ourselves from the online world. We all should exercise caution. We should share personal details only with our friends. We can report spam, block unknown people and activate privacy settings.
Tanveer Jot, MCM student
Social networking sites or internet is completely unsafe. Anyone can hack into your account and see your private details. Your personal data can be picked up. But there are ways to check this practice. A girl visits a place and the next moment she is tagged in a status revealing her location. Amanpreet Singh, IT expert