K Sanjay Kumar IPS is the author of Digitron’s Cyber Moral Stories and currently serves as the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Trivandrum. A two part series, it educates children about online safety measures. The Quest for a Smartphone, the first in the series is a collection of stories about kids stepping into the world that the screen offers, the challenges they face and how they deal with it through relatable stories.
Q. We have to begin with the most obvious question. Is it your tenure in the cyber security departments over the years that led you to write Digitron’s Cyber Moral Stories?
To a large extent, yes. While working as a police officer, I have come across several cases of online harassment against children. It was during the investigation of such cases I realised that children in India are in high risk category due to a combination of increased access enabled by affordable internet and smartphones and low resilience, with parents and children lacking the knowledge on how to safeguard themselves against cyber threats. The children are victimized online because they are neither socialised to take precautions and safety measures against online offense, nor do they know what has to be done after they are victimised.
The only way to keep children safe online is to inculcate a culture of disciplined online behaviour. We have moral stories to imbibe good behaviour, culture and also to be aware of various risks in this physical world. But today children need to learn what is good and bad, right and wrong in digital world. This idea prompted me to write Digitron’s Cyber Moral Stories.
Q. Cyber security is challenging not just for children but for adults as well. While classes in institutions and books like these can create awareness among children, what about adults who fall prey to tricksters and phishing?
Very True. Adults are equally vulnerable to online risks and dangers. Everyone should understand that we have already started living in the digital world. Every activity of yours are somehow connected to internet, for instance the way you communicate, the way you gather information, the way you travel, the way you make booking, pay the bills, the way you do banking, the way you play games, the way we find friend and even the way we marry! All the crimes which exist in the physical world has extended itself to digital platform. Now there is no need for the thief to enter into your house to steal your hard-earned money. The cyber fraudster can take away your money from your account online, by various means like online frauds, phishing, vishing, online scams, credit card frauds. Like children, every individual adult also should make themselves aware on what precautions should be taken to keep themselves safe online. There are various ways by which adults can gather information on cyber awareness, but the first thing they should realise that they need such awareness.
Q. Was it your interest that drew to cyber security or the way it developed over the years?
Actually my interest developed over the years. Every individual need to brush up on their knowledge of technology. This is something that I have realised in my short experience as a police officer. The present generation is very smart when it comes to technology, but they often lack the worldly wisdom to safely navigate through its potential hazards. The internet and social networking sites have become an integral part of our lives. We have accepted its potentials for the communication, entertainment, and information. However, it has also exposed all of us to very serious dangers that defy age, geographic location unlike in the real world.
It is a bitter truth that cyber offences against individual and more specifically against children are increasing, a new way and creative ways are being identified and employed to harass, abuse and exploit them. The problem is not limited to India, but a global challenge. Due to all these reasons I thought to contribute something to make people aware on flip side of internet, and hence this interest developed.
Q. With the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, we have seen a surge in the usage of digital media and mobile phones irrespective of age. Has the number of cases pertaining to cyber issues increased? Do you think this have negative effects on children in the long run?
Yes. There has been surge in cyber issues connected with the children. I personally see this from two different perspectives. Firstly, the lives of millions of children have temporarily shrunk to just their homes and their screens resulting into potential dangers of internet exposure for young children and secondly, the digital shift may alienate economically disadvantaged students who don’t have access to the technology digital lessons require.
At the same time the online classes may not be seen as negative, there are many advantages of online classes, if we safeguard our children from the online risks. Remember the technology is here to stay and we have to adapt and prepare ourselves to this change.
Q. Writing for children is definitely several notch harder than we assume it to be. What is your writing procedure and when do you find time to write amidst your busy schedule?
First I would like to confess that I am not a writer. I write books only with the purpose to give some awareness to the reader. Writing books for children is not easy, as you have to consistently be conscious about the age group of the reader. You have to get into the heart and mind of a child, to respect their intelligence and intuitive sense. The content and the language should be age-appropriate at the same time you have to think from children point of view to make them interesting, which I felt little difficult. For me another difficult part was to correlate myself and the content of the book, it is quite different feeling to read the book meant for children and then you realize it is written by me only.
Finding out time is not difficult if it’s your passion. In fact, I have several things in mind which I wish to pen it down, may be in coming days.
Q. What are you currently reading?
I am not a “bibliobibuli”, and in addition to that my profession demands lot of things to be read which in itself consumes lot of time. I am very slow reader too. I read books for my PG in Psychology and PG Diploma in Cyber Law and Cyber Forensics which I recently completed. Presently, I am reading Future Crimes by Marc Goddman, The Power of your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy.
Click here for the digital copy of The Quest for a Smartphone.