Monday, December 11, 2017

Digital Safety Among Students

While hailing new technologies at China’s Ujena, CEO of Apple Inc, Tim Cook, shared quite a few concerns. He said, “Much has been said about the potential negative aspects of artificial intelligence. I am not worried about machines that think as people, I worry about people who think as machines. We need to work together to introduce technology to humanity. Technologies can change the world for the better, if they are embedded in humanity.” Although the effects of Artificial Intelligence are yet to unveil, 
the expansion of the digital world has made it difficult to keep kids, especially teenagers away from various digital equipment, social media platforms and the cyber world.

The world has become a compact community and there is a lot of pressure of connecting, knowing things and people better and sharing ‘stories, status, events, location and even pictures’The clutches of cybercrimes are becoming stronger day by day and the easiest to fall prey are the teenagers as for them social media has become the way of life. Thanks to the sharing culture on social media, it has become as easy to be fall prey to a cybercrime as it is to press the 'like' button on Facebook. Emails purportedly from friends or even from banks lure them into clicking on infected links or attachments containing malware, which have the effect of compromising online actions.

Cybercrime, or computer oriented crime, is crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target. Cybercrimes can be defined as: "Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm, or loss, to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (networks including but not limited to Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (Bluetooth/SMS/MMS). The kind of cybercrime to which teenagers are prone to is CYBER BULLYING. Cyber bullying or cyber harassment is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic forms of contact. Cyber bullying has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers. Harmful bullying behavior can include posting rumors about a person, threats, and sexual remarks, disclose victims' personal information, or pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech). Bullying or harassment can be identified by repeated behavior and intent to harm. Victims may have lower self-esteem, increased suicidal ideation, and a variety of emotional responses, retaliating, being scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed. Individuals have reported that cyber bullying can be more harmful than traditional bullying. (Source Wikipedia)

Kids have impressionable minds and the digital world is tempting and vivid. Therefore, it becomes our duty as parents and teachers to help the kids balance and keep a safe distance from this virtual world and protect them from cybercrimes especially cyber bullying. The first step in this direction would be to win the faith and trust of the kids to such an extent that they wouldn’t need social approval to feel good about themselves. The connection between the kids and parents and students and teachers should be strong enough so that there is constant communication and sharing of thoughts and ideas which will make them comfortable in talking about their actions. They should be guided by the parents and teachers that safety should be their priority and the world of social media is, virtual and the real world has to be kept at a safe distance from it.

The next step should be to follow certain guidelines to ensure that we are keeping our kids away from the negative effects of internet.

The need of safe and effective internet policy and supervision of computers in schools

Schools need to promote a safe and secure educational environment for effective teaching and learning and to discourage students from actions detrimental to themselves, their peers and the value system. Schools are, thus, advised to take the following measures to preempt any inappropriate and illegal activity through IT enabled devices in schools:

·      Schools must have a set of guidelines for pupils which govern their use of the Internet and other digital technologies and which are used as a basis for education in responsible Internet use. 
·      A designated role with first-line responsibility for a safe and effective use policy should be assigned to a senior manager e.g. Principal/ICT Coordinator.

·      A policy for safe and effective use that is understood and acted upon by the whole school community can help to ensure a safe learning environment. Any policy should stress the considerable educational benefits of using the Internet.

·      Safe location and supervision of computers in schools is a must. Computers should be in highly visible areas of the school and pupils using the Internet should, where possible, be supervised.  

·      Educate students for the safe and effective use of the Internet.

·  Install effective firewalls, filtering and monitoring software mechanisms in all the computers and regularly review filtering and blocking policies and procedures. Various types of unsolicited contents available on internet must be blocked. Isolate Internet access from other school Network.

·  Configure end user computer devices with parental control filters / Antivirus of appropriate standard.

·      Deploy Digital Surveillance system.

·      Supervise and monitor all online activities in the light of educational objectives.

·      Allow Children to access only pre-selected websites appropriate to their age group.

·      Aware the teachers and other school staffs about Internet safety norms.

·  Take disciplinary action against those who attempt to bypass filtering or to access inappropriate or illegal material in schools.

·     Comply with all relevant legislation on copyright, property theft, fraud, discrimination and obscenity on all forms of IT enabled devices.

·      Use only the licensed version of software. (Source: CBSE)

Internet Safety Awareness for Parents
Our natural desire is to keep children safe and this can only be done through the education and support we can all offer them. It is important that parents are equally able to guide and support their children in the online world so that they enjoy the benefits whilst avoiding the potential risks.
·      The best defenses against any online risks are openness, awareness and education: talk with your children about their online lives, share their experiences and learn from them, help them to use technology positively and responsibly, and give them boundaries, guidance and support.
·      While schools are under no legal obligation to provide internet safety advice to parents, it is a responsible step to take. There are a number of resources and websites to support parents:
Awareness among students about the perils like Cyber Bullying and Harassment should be spread through following instructions and warnings:

·   Bullying and harassment (cyber bullying) can occur through mobile phones as well as online.
·      Only talk online to people you know in the real world
·      There is information about you that you should not share online because it only belongs to you. Always tell your parents if someone asks you personal questions online.
·      Remember that advertising and messages that are sent by people you don’t know can give away your personal information or break your computer.
·      Show you care by not sending messages that are mean to other people, or sharing messages that are not kind.
·      If you read something that is not nice tell an adult you trust. They can’t help protect you and make sure other people don’t get hurt.
·      Keep away from websites that are not made for kids and if you visit one by accident, close it and tell your teacher or an adult you trust.
·      Show respect for other’s privacy by not trying to get into their online spaces
·      Do not share passwords with anybody except your parents
School staff, parents and students need to work together to prevent cyber crimes and to tackle it whenever it occurs. It’s unlikely that kids want to listen to an hour-long lecture on the dangers of the internet. Odds are that they would probably tune you out within the first 5 minutes. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get them to listen... you just have to change your angle. Provide them with resources like the YouTube videos from Google Family Safety and Watch Well Cast: Playing and Staying Safe Online
To conclude I would share a case scenario discussed by Robert Lucas in his article, “The Teacher’s Guide to Keeping Students Safe Online
“Everyone likes to feel as if they are “right.” That sentiment is probably more accurate with your students than anyone else. Create fake scenarios about possible dangerous internet usage and pass them out to the class.  The scenario could read something like this: Anna is a 15 year-old girl with a Facebook account. She tries to keep her account as private as possible but has forgotten that her address is located under the information on her profile. One day she receives a message from a boy named ‘Matt.’ Matt has very few pictures and friends on his profile and seems very interested in meeting up with Anna.”  After students read the scenario ask them questions such as: “Are there any issues with this situation? What would you do if you were Anna?”
The goal is to allow students to arrive at their own conclusion (with our guidance) of the inherent danger in situations like these. By encouraging students to figure out the answer themselves, we not only empower them but educate them as well. Make it a point to encourage students to respect themselves and to remove themselves from any situation where they are uncomfortable, being bullied, or being attacked. Use these scenarios to teach students how to handle hurtful, uncomfortable, or dangerous situations.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Learn to Accept No And Failure

My faith on kids has not deterred in worst of the situations but the recent events unveiled how muffled are the kids psychologically. It was reported that a child of a school was allegedly involved in a heinous crime just because he was worried about his examination and subsequently the result as he thought that he was not well prepared for the same. I do not know what the truth is but there are a number of cases reported almost on regular basis where the children do not accept NO from anybody and fear of failure drive them towards not good things. Such issues raise a lot of questions. The responsibility, dignity and ethics on which an educational institute should work are questioned. A lot of fingers are pointed and answers demanded. Discussions and interpretations are pouring in and yet somewhere there is emptiness. The fact remains, that the child who lost his life was innocent and his demise has created a void in the life of his parents which probably would never be filled.
The children who are innocent in their thoughts and actions with all pious feeling towards others are ‘made to’ behave in a manner which is not approved by anyone in the society. ‘By whom and why’ is the question to be answered, if we have to save our children from getting trapped in something which may force them into an inevitable and difficult situation.  I must strongly state that I am in no way exonerating the kids involved in some violent or hate acts or trying to reduce the intensity of their crimes. All I am trying to do is to give tongue to the fear that now fills our hearts. Are there more kids who might be involved in some crimes? Are they around us? Are they the best friends of your kids? Are they sitting, eating, and talking to your kids every day? ..... OR, is your kid so psychologically drained that he could be one of them? I know these are uncomfortable questions and I ask them to make you uncomfortable.
Any act of violence or theft etc. raises so many questions on parents, teachers, school administration and the education system as a whole. Who is responsible? The kid who commits the crime? Yes, definitely. But along with him the parents, teachers and school stands shamefaced. One would call me inconsiderate here that I am taking away the toil, love and patience the parents and teachers give to a child but the need of the hour is to find the loopholes. I think many of us are not teaching the kids to accept FAILURE and are not inculcating in them the tolerance and the capacity to hear NO.
As parents at times, we try to hide our child’s mistake and cover for them, which indirectly make the child feel that how significant it is to be flawless. As teachers we celebrate and appreciate achievements and many a times punish and humiliate kids for something not done right by them. We never let the children feel that mistakes are a part of life and one should be learning lessons from the same and avoiding the repetition of such mistakes. This is something that needs to be taught.
No can sting but it’s a part of life and kids should be made patient and strong enough to tolerate it. Children should be made to understand that it is ok to feel disappointed when you hear a No. They must be explained that there isn’t any good in holding grudges and taking revenge because in this way you are wasting your precious time pining upon lost opportunities and neglecting the available ones. A clear ‘no’ or in some cases blunt criticism can perturb anyone so it’s important that the child learns to take criticism in a healthy and positive manner. Children should be taught to:
Ø  Listen to criticism and understand where they made a mistake. Own up to their mistakes without shame and fear to try to overcome them and move further instead of living in guilt and fear
Ø  Ask questions from the critic for self improvement
Ø  Take initiative and help from family, teachers and friends to not repeat the same mistakes
Ø  They must know that NO is also important and everything may not be made available to them as and when they want.
This could only be executed successfully if we as teachers and parents learn to embrace our kids and let them know their faults in a positive manner seeking improvement not their humiliation.
The psychological counselor Eve Menezes Cunningham talks about the importance of saying no. "Children, like adults, need boundaries. If they don't hear 'No' and honor it, how will they not overstep others' boundaries - and set strong enough boundaries when others are not honoring them?" It was in the news a few weeks back that when a child was denied a badminton racket by his mother he tried to burn himself. A student was fought happy with his classmate just because he did not share his lunch box with him. There have been number of cases shared in which children ask for motorbike etc and when told NO stop eating food or run away till their demand is met. These are the cases where their demands were always met but when said NO this is the response. When a child makes an unfair demand the parents and teachers should say a firm NO but they should go ahead and give the reason behind it too. “It turns out that saying no pays off far beyond avoiding raising spoiled kids. When we always yield to our children’s wants, we rob them of the opportunity to find solutions by adapting what they already have. Kids who learn from denial realize at an early age that they won’t always have the perfect tool for every job.”
This brings me to another major issue which is the inability of the child to accept failure and move on. How many times do we say to our kids that:
*      “If you are not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you are not doing anything innovative.”
*      “When you are losing it can seem like there is a black cloud following you around, but remember there is a silver lining in every dark cloud.”
*      “One can fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he gives up.”
*      “Failure is the mechanism of leaning.”
*      “Failure is not fatal. Success is not final.”
With these lessons which motivate students to accept failure we need to understand that students will not accept failure if they do not know the art of bouncing back from failure. Failure and disappointments are really inevitable when we are in pursuit of what we want to achieve. “The simple truth is – no great success was ever achieved without failure. It may be one epic failure. Or a series of failures – such as Edison's 10,000 attempts to create a light bulb or Dyson’s 5,126 attempts to invent a bagless vacuum cleaner. But, whether we like it or not, failure is a necessary stepping stone to achieving our dreams.”
We need to help them develop a perspective, to take stand for the right. This righteousness should not be based on what society thinks is right. They should be groomed in a way that they wouldn’t be able to sleep with a guilty conscience. This will happen when they will be encouraged to make choices in difficult situation. Failing in an exam doesn’t make one loser but giving up and submitting to wrong means does. 
I would conclude with these lines for the teacher, parents and kids, “Failure and No should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. No teaches us to understand our limits and boundaries so that we can respect the boundaries of others.”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Importance of Inculcating Self Reliance in Kids

“You cannot help children permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.”
Cleanliness and hygiene are the basic values and etiquettes inculcated in every child. Both parents and school strive for accomplishing this goal. “Swachh Bharat Mission” initiated by honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a commendable step, uniting the nation on the grounds of cleanliness. Not only the people in general but also many schools across the nation have welcomed this move with appreciation and enthusiasm. Students are enthusiastically involved in this cause and contributed in cleaning the school premises to celebrate the event in its true spirit. Realizing the gravitas of the event, students picked up paper bits from the classroom and playground and cleaned the school premises with teachers, showing exuberance and positivity.

Even parents, across the nation, welcomed this idea and encouraged their kids to participate in cleanliness drives, actively. Amidst this sense of responsibility towards cleanliness of the nation and self-hygiene, a few schools faced objection from a few parents as they were against the idea of including kids in cleaning the school premises and picking garbage. It was quite surprising as importance of cleanliness & hygiene should be the basic, and the most important lesson taught in schools as well as at home.
Education underlines the idea of holistic development of students and a major part of this is self-reliance. In the era of DIY (DO IT YOURSELF) our kids are still being pampered and raised in such a way where they are not being made responsible enough to do their work themselves.  They have all  kinds of help available when it comes to preparing their uniform for school, cleaning their clothes, washing the dishes they use and even for making their bed and keeping their room clean.

Self reliance starts with basic responsibilities which kids are deprived of on a daily basis. It’s high time that we work in the direction of making our children learn to be more resourceful and less dependent on us. “Data shows that the 21st century parenting style is a lot of protecting, rescuing, helicoptering, over-involving, micromanaging, and enabling and it’s not doing our kids any favors.” When you are doing all this you are attempting to take on a responsibility that you should not be doing. You are making your child dependent and someone who would be ready with this question in all trying situations, “What would we do now?”

You are your child’s parent. But that does not mean you have to run your child’s life. You are not expected to do this and you really don’t have the ability to do this; especially if your child is a teen. Your child is now a teenager and has a need to be in control of his own life. More than that, it is your responsibility as a parent to help your child learn to take control of his own life. This is part of teaching your child how to become an adult.” Our role as parents and teachers is to prepare our child to function as an adult, to help them take decisions and make choices in difficult situation. And for this they need to learn at a very tender age, the art of trusting and depending on themselves for various things including their daily chores. Discussions about it may feel like the least of our priorities. Teaching children principles of self-reliance, however, can actually help children learn to responsibly manage their emotions and behavior.
The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi spun his own clothes, and was able to provide nourishment for himself with a small farm he owned. He spoke highly of self reliance and propounded it to be one of the greatest virtues. But kids these days are so accustomed to the comforts of "I cannot", "I do not want to" and "it is too difficult" that they forget to realize when they stop doing things for themselves and expect others to do it for them, depriving themselves of achieving greatness. We have made them weak.

Well, this problem asks for a solution and we need to come up with ideas that could inculcate self reliance in kids without burdening them with the sense of serious responsibilities. Let’s see what we can do as parents:

v Seek help: Let the kids feel that they could play a key role in helping you out in various ways. Involve them in grocery shopping or making the monthly budget.

v Let them emulate: Both the parents should set an example for kids by keeping the used plates etc. at proper place after and washing the meal, wash dishes if possible, arranging the clothes and cupboards properly, keeping the desk neat and tidy and dividing the chores equally so that the child also feels responsible for certain tasks.

v Take a back seat: If you constantly do all the work for your child, they tend to rely on you and become lazy. If you want to change this scenario you need to take quick measures. Let the child get his/her uniform ready for school. Let them cook if you are busy for the day.

v You aren’t the saviour: If they fail in the tasks mentioned in the above point, don’t panic and don’t let them panic. Tell them to manage their time better the next time but don’t do it for them. It’s important for them to realize that they are responsible for their own success and failures.

v Positive reinforcement: Weather it is a little effort in making their bed or arranging their desk, appreciate the way they have done it. This would encourage them to understand that their efforts do make a difference and add to their personalities in a positive manner.

v Appreciate their style: Spread their little efforts of self reliance by sharing it with their friends so that they remain motivated.

v Let them be the change: If they are perturbed by the mess around the room and in the locality, ask them to take an initiative to find solutions. Encourage them to write letter to the editor and conduct and get involved in little locality based cleanliness campaigns.

As teachers, involve your students in keeping the classrooms clean. Appoint cleanliness in-charges and regulate their work. Give titles like most organized child, most clean class and appreciate their creativity and originality in work. Teach them to organize their work at school as it is an important skill they need for managing their own lives-so they rely less and less on others as time goes by. Let them know the benefits of self reliance in building their future to make them “career ready-opportunity seekers”.

Recently, the parents of a pre-primary class witnessed the assembly presented by the little kids on the topic `importance of trees`. The children were at their best and parents were overwhelmed by their performance. One of the parent said that it was difficult for them to believe that their child who could not manage self at home can do so well in group. She was right but the fact is when the child got opportunity to do without much of interference and support he/ she did. The problem is that the children rarely get such opportunity.

I would like to conclude my views with these thoughts of Gever Tulley, “When we protect children from every possible source of danger and responsibility, we also prevent them from having the kinds of experiences that develop their sense of self-reliance, their ability to assess and mitigate risk, and their sense of accomplishment.”