Navigating the web safely: Identifying, avoiding and responding to online threats

The Internet is a wonderful tool that offers many opportunities for learning, communication, and entertainment. In this digital age, education providers are increasingly adopting the world wide web as a valuable learning resource for students as young as kindergarteners. 

While the Internet offers numerous advantages, it is crucial to recognise the potential dangers that may exist online. In order for students to navigate online platforms safely, they must be taught to identify and avoid the different forms of threats.

SMK Convent Bukit Mertajam recently took the initiative in organising a talk to promote a safe virtual environment for its students. WOU’s School of Business and Administration (SBA) senior lecturer Dr Lalitha Ramasamy delivered a talk on “Cyber Safety: Keeping Teenagers and Children Safe Online” at the school on 2 May 2023.

Speaking to a group of 269 students from Form Four and Form Five classes, Dr Lalitha shared informative facts through real-life examples and videos that kept her young audience engaged throughout the session.

Dr Lalitha stressing the importance of cyber safety.

She discussed the various techniques used by cyber criminals to prey on unsuspecting teenagers and children, which include cyber bullying, cyber stalking, cyber harassment, love bombing, and pornography.

“These youngsters are then lured into revealing personal information, and in some cases, even cajoled into posing for suggestive photographs,” she elaborated.

Dr Lalitha also revealed more extreme cybercrimes that come in the form of online grooming for sexual purposes, sexting, sextortion, and virtual rape. 

“Often, the victims are too traumatised to discuss the details of their unpleasant experience out of shame and fear of reprisals,” she said. She added that many sadly succumb to depression, and in the worst case scenarios, lose their will to live.

Thumbs up for a very insightful talk.

As a precaution, Dr Lalitha emphasised several red flags to watch out for when communicating with or accepting “friend requests” from strangers online. Students should be wary when a person offers excessive compliments, particularly on their physical appearance.

She also advised the students to be vigilant once someone they don’t know well starts to ask personal questions or request private information such as an address or a phone number. Other indicators that would set off an alarm include when the person tries to keep the relationship a secret, asks for revealing photographs or tries to send gifts.

A suggestion for a face-to-face meeting is also a warning sign of an unsafe online interaction, she stressed.

“Always trust your intuition and speak to a trusted adult if you feel uncomfortable in your online interaction,” she told the students.

She reminded the students to take immediate action such as terminating the communication, blocking the perpetrator’s access and documenting all communications that could be used as evidence.

Students look on as Dr Lalitha receives a token of appreciation.

According to Dr Lalitha, not many are aware of the numerous avenues for help provided by the relevant authorities. She provided a contact list of governmental and non-governmental organisations that offer support to victims of cybercrimes.

After the talk, the students enthusiastically participated in the quiz session that offered WOU merchandise as prizes.

The winner of the quiz receives a goodie bag of WOU merchandise.
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