Shaurya Saluja, 17, avoids facebook and barely spends any time on the internet, unlike his mouse-minded peers. But for the teenager from India’s IT capital, the internet is still the centre of his universe.
Saluja, a Class 12 student at Bengalooru’s Indus International School, has designed a cyber safety curriculum for schools, to educate students about the dangers inherent in the bottomless abyss that is cyberspace.
The curriculum, that his own school will pilot next month, is for classes 9 to 12 and built on four modules: “cyber ethics”, “networks and you”, “protecting yourself”, and “cyber laws”. Saluja was in the city on Wednesday at the launch of a new cyber safety package.
“Students are so busy trying to get past adult installed controls and proxy servers that they don't think of the risks they are putting themselves at," said Saluja. Those risks include online predators, identity theft, and cyber bullying.
The idea to develop the curriculum first arose in January when Saluja’s 10-year-old cousin asked his help in creating a facebook account.
He then realised the unspoken risks for children navigating without guidance, in the virtual world.
Subsequently Saluja approached the Punjab-based Cyber Security Research Centre to help him in his crusade for cyber awareness. After a two-week internship at the centre and a study involving 60 schools in Chandigarh, he found there were huge gaps in cyber awareness in schools.
“When I was studying in Malaysia earlier we had people coming and talking to us about these things, but schools here don't really address that,” he said.
After his school pilots the curriculum he plans to finalise it based on feedback from parents, students and teachers. The next step: reaching out to other Indus International schools and eventually other schools. In a few years he hopes to approach the national boards to develop cyber safety as a separate subject.
When he initially floated the idea among his friends they were skeptical, interpreting his initiative as a campaign against facebook, a social networking site.
“But once they realised how cyber safety pertains to their life in other ways, they could see it was an important issue,” he said.