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Indian Express Editorial Analysis

15-May-2024

1. Ask the children

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Vulnerable Sections
Context:
  • The article discusses a recent judgment by the Delhi High Court concerning online safety for minors and critiques its approach to addressing the risks of virtual touch.
  • While the judgment aims to equip minors with the knowledge and tools to navigate online interactions safely, it raises several critical points that merit consideration.

What is ‘Virtual Touch’?

  • ‘Virtual Touch’ refers to the concept of teaching minors to recognize potential risks in cyberspace, alongside traditional concepts of “good touch” and “bad touch.”
  • It involves educating them about appropriate online behaviour, identifying warning signs of predatory behaviour, understanding the importance of privacy settings and online boundaries, and developing critical thinking skills to assess the credibility of online contacts and safeguard personal information.

Critique of the Judgment:

  • The article begins by critiquing the judgment’s framing of teenagers as ignorant of online risks and parents, guardians, and educators as the sole stewards of online safety.
  • It argues that this approach fails to acknowledge the disruption of technology, where teenagers often educate their elders on digital matters and may rely more on peers and siblings than adults for guidance.

Teenagers’ Developmental Stage and Risk-Taking Behavior:

  • Another aspect highlighted is that teenagers, aged 13 to 25, are in a developmental stage characterized by risk-taking behavior.
  • While they may possess awareness of online risks, their inclination towards risk-taking behavior cannot be overlooked.
  • Despite their awareness, cautious behavior may not always translate into action when faced with online dangers.

Knowledge-Informed Action:

  • The article emphasizes the crucial aspect of the disconnect between knowledge and knowledge-informed action.
  • While awareness of online risks is essential, it may not necessarily lead to cautious behavior when encountering actual threats.
  • This underscores the need for safety modules to address this gap and focus not solely on teenagers but also on adults who are susceptible to internet fraud.

Intersection of Societal Norms and Laws:

  • The article discusses how societal norms and laws, particularly the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), intersect to criminalize behaviors inherent to adolescent development.
  • This inadvertently places adolescents at greater risk of exploitation and discourages them from seeking help or reporting abuse, perpetuating conditions of desire, shame, and silence that allow perpetrators to thrive.

Critique of Terminology and Response Systems:

  • Critiques are also raised regarding the terminology used in the judgment, such as “virtual touch,” and the need for a strengthened victim-centric response system.
  • The article highlights a case dragged on for over two years, despite the POCSO Act recommending that cases be resolved within one year, underscoring the need for a robust response system to incidents of abuse.

Recognition of Teenagers’ Agency and Awareness:

  • Finally, the article criticizes the judgment for failing to recognize teenagers as growing and evolving individuals with their own agency and awareness.
  • It argues that by overlooking teenagers as active participants in their own lives, both physically and virtually, laws and judgments intended to protect Indian minors will fall short.

Conclusion:

  • The article provides a comprehensive critique of the Delhi High Court judgment on online safety for minors.
  • It underscores the need for a more nuanced understanding of teenagers’ experiences and challenges in navigating the digital world and calls for a victim-centric response system and legal framework that recognizes teenagers as active participants in their own lives.

 

Significance of “Virtual Touch Education”

 

“Education on Virtual Touch’ holds significance as it provides users, particularly minors, with essential knowledge and abilities to safely and responsibly maneuver through the expanding digital realm. Here’s why it’s crucial:”

Ensuring Safe Online Navigation:

  • Virtual touch education provides users, especially minors, with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate the digital landscape securely and responsibly.
  • Users learn about setting online boundaries and appropriate behavior, helping them identify warning signs and steer clear of potentially risky online situations.

Safeguarding Privacy:

  • Understanding the implications of virtual touch technology on data collection empowers users to make informed decisions regarding their privacy settings and the use of their personal information.
  • Users gain insight into how their data may be collected and utilized, enabling them to protect their privacy effectively

Preventing Cyberbullying:

  • Recognizing inappropriate virtual touch interactions enables users to shield themselves from cyberbullying and online harassment.
  • By understanding what constitutes inappropriate behavior, users can take proactive measures to safeguard their well-being and maintain a positive online experienc
PYQ: Examine the main provisions of the National Child Policy and throw light on the status of its implementation. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2016)
Practice Question:  Explain the significance of the recent Delhi High Court judgment regarding online safety for minors. Discuss the challenges highlighted in the judgment and suggest measures to address them effectively. (250 words/15 m)

 

 

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