Children need to be taught about dangers of 'virtual' world: Delhi High Court [7.5.2024]

Teaching minors about good touch' and bad touch' is not enough in today's virtual world and children must be educated on the emerging concept of virtual touch' and its potential dangers, the Delhi High Court has said.

This involves teaching them appropriate online behaviour, recognising warning signs of predatory behaviour and understanding the importance of privacy settings and online boundaries.

This court is constrained to note that in today's virtual modern world where virtual space has also become a breeding ground of alleged virtual affections between teenagers, they are not equipped to deal with the potential dangers of human trafficking for prostitution and other side of crimes which exists in the virtual world, Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said on Monday.

The high court's observations came while dismissing a bail plea by a woman, Kamlesh Devi, accused of helping her son in sexually assaulting a minor girl after kidnapping her and forcing her into prostitution.

The 16-year-old was allegedly kidnapped by Rajiv who befriended her on social media and kidnapped her when she came to meet him. The girl was taken to Madhya Pradesh and confined there for several days. She was allegedly sexually assaulted by the man and others.

It was also alleged that the girl was forced to marry a 45-year-old man in exchange for money. The teen alleged that the accused persons would bring various men to the premises where she was confined and she was forced to present herself to these men for sexual gratification

Traditionally, efforts to protect minors from harm have focused on teaching them about 'good touch' and 'bad touch' in the physical realm. However, in today's virtual world, it is crucial to extend this education to encompass the concept of 'virtual touch'. Minors must be equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate online interactions safely and recognise potential risks lurking in cyberspace, the court said.

It added that just as children are taught to exercise caution in the physical world, efforts must be made to teach them to develop critical thinking skills to assess the credibility of online contacts and safeguard their personal information.

Moreover, parents, guardians and educators play a crucial role in fostering digital literacy and promoting responsible online conduct among minors. By fostering open communication channels and providing guidance on navigating the digital landscape, adults can empower children to make informed decisions and protect themselves from online threats, the court said.

It said the need of the hour is also to send a message through this order to stakeholders such as schools and colleges, Delhi State Legal Services Authority and Delhi Judicial Academy to hold programmes, workshops and conferences on the matter.

07 May 2024