Monday, August 1, 2011

Internet Safety: A Collective Responsibility

By Dr. Vijaya Lakshmi


l watched a TV documentary long back about how the American Security System was strengthened after the assassination of its President John Kennedy. It’s a phenomenon that the U.S. government has developed such a strong security system for the safety of its citizens valuing human life. I was very keen to interact with law enforcement authorities to learn their experiences in combating cyber crime, especially in the context of children.

Dr. Aimee Edmondson, from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, has fixed an appointment with Andrew D. Powers Chief of Police at the Ohio University Police Department. The conversation throws light on various aspects of online problems. Detective Sergeant Brian Kapple, supervisor of OUPD’s Criminal Investigation Unit, has also joined our conversation. I was quite enthralled to learn that Powers said that the law enforcement agencies don’t take up any activity that denies access to information to its citizens. It reflects the cultural context of the nation. It's considered a matter of democratic freedom and ingrained as a rational thought. From his experience, Powers pointed out that children sometimes fail to develop the interpersonal management skills to deal with crisis situations due to their heavy dependency on digital communication.

Sergeant Brian Kapple opined that the challenge in tackling cyber crimes is enormous because cybercriminals are unfettered by national boundaries, while law enforcement agencies' efforts are limited to local jurisdictions. He also pointed out that responsibility lies with educational institutions and parents to teach online safety for children. There may be some truth in that, but personally I feel it is the collective responsibility of the state and its citizens. Especially when I think of India, my home country, the situation is different where children access Internet at Cybercafé without any proper orientation about online problems which is a major concern for us. I expect the State Government to play a greater role in dealing with these cyber issues. Since cybercrime has no geographical boundaries, I think the global world has to work on a single platform to protect our innocent children from digital dangers.

It really amused me when Powers said in addition to investigating online crimes targeting children, the law enforcement agencies interact with children and their parents about Internet safety through Facebook and Twitter. Something that attracted me is the different Internet rating systems in the U.S., which provides ratings to social networking sites to indicate its status but it is a voluntary activity. The parents can asses the nature of SNS by looking at the ratings.

SUSI is an exciting program that gives me deeper insight into the American system and offers an opportunity to experience the professional and social atmosphere in the U.S. In addition, the hospitality I received from the SUSI staff is overwhelming.

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