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How do you watch without being watched on social networking sites? Sriya Narayanan on overcoming problems relating to privacy in the tangled web.

The World Wide Web is an icky place. Unlike the physical universe (that has limited room for garbage), cyberspace keeps track of everything we say and do, simply because it can. The good news is we already know. The bad news is we sometimes forget.

Ever Googled yourself and felt mortified at the report card that showed up in a nanosecond? If yes, the lesson to be learnt is embarrassingly simple — don’t sign a petition addressed to Robert Pattinson titled “Puncture my neck and bless me with eternal romance”. And if you must, use a fake name. Despite the Internet’s supposed ‘watch without being watched’ quality, most websites, particularly the social networking variety, have diabolical ways to track our movements and display them to hundreds of chuckling strangers. Last year, Facebookers were distraught when a pair of binoculars showed up on their friends’ profiles. The tell-tale application (called Who’s Watching You) listed everyone who had visited their profiles in the recent past and displayed their faces in a giant collage. Even cautious Twitter users who opt for ‘protected updates’ can be re-tweeted by their followers to an audience they’ve never met.

Because of how fast technology evolves, it’s impossible to anticipate what virtual skeletons will tumble out of the computer screen. Privacy settings have mind-numbing jargon and when you’re trying to instal software in a hurry, the ten-page disclaimer is better left unread. The real problem is how easily the Internet can “pick up” information and store it elsewhere, rendering you powerless. While things can’t be unsaid in real life either, the online world files things away publicly under your name, with a time stamp to boot. Once the ‘post’ button has been pressed, it’s no use deleting the comment, deactivating your account and wiping off your fingerprints from the keyboard with a damp cloth. That random rant written in a fit of boredom is like the great undead that will come to life at every chance. And thanks to the trail of virtual breadcrumbs, anyone can find anyone else. This has mixed results. You might rediscover a childhood companion or find yourself staring at friend requests from the gang who made high school hell.

Internet-enabled reunions inevitably end with the formation or revival of an e-group. If the moderators are not careful, the group ends up with default settings that make emails publicly visible. A conversation thread with mobile numbers, meeting places and other personal details begins, and all it takes is one search for the string to unravel much to the delight of identity thieves and stalkers.

Fix-it technologies are hard to come by. There are dozens of tricks and strategies that need to be learnt, with no guaranteed results. Even an ancient blog post that was purged from the archives long ago could magically reappear in another listing, sprouting sentences that look only vaguely familiar. At times like this, there’s not much else to do except sit back and hope that the offending website that someone started in his mother’s basement runs out of funding and shuts down.  

DAMAGE CONTROL 101

1. Gmail goggles: Turn on Mail Goggles before heading out for drinks. The feature, which is a hit with party animals, prevents you from sending out reckless declarations of love or hatred. It makes you do some math before allowing you to hit ‘send’. Can’t do the math? You’ll need to log off and return tomorrow.

2. Message Recall: Some office mail applications have this option but it only works if the message hasn’t been read yet and if the recipient lets you recall it.

3. Facebook faux pas: Did your friend upload an unflattering photo of you and ignore requests to delete it? Click on ‘remove tag’. It will still be online but won’t show up in your list.

4. No comments: If you made a comment on a public forum and there’s no delete option, change your display name so it doesn’t show up in search results for your real name.

5, Confidential chat: On Google chat, select “Go off the record” to prevent chats from being saved and reproduced.

by

SRIYA NARAYANAN

Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/internet/article816336.ece

Filed under: Online safety Tips, , ,

5 Easy Steps to Stay Safe (and Private!) on Facebook

by Sarah Perez

September 16, 2009

Courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com/

 

When the President of the United States warns schoolchildren to watch what they say and do on Facebook, you know that we’ve got a problem…and it’s not one limited to the U.S.’s borders, either. People everywhere are mindlessly over-sharing on the world’s largest social network, without a second thought as to who’s reading their posts or what effect it could have on them further down the road. For example, did you know that 30% of today’s employers are using Facebook to vet potential employees prior to hiring? In today’s tough economy, the question of whether to post those embarrassing party pics could now cost you a paycheck in addition to a reputation. (Keep that in mind when tagging your friends’ photos, too, won’t you?)

But what can be done? It’s not like you can just quit Facebook, right? No – and you don’t have to either. You just need to take a few precautions.

Unbeknownst to most mainstream Facebook users, the social network actually offers a slew of privacy controls and security features which can help you batten down the hatches, so to speak. If used properly, you’ll never have to worry about whether you should friend the boss and your mom. You can friend anyone you want while comfortable in the knowledge that not everyone gets to see everything you post.

The problem in implementing these privacy options is that they’re just too confusing for most non-tech savvy people to handle. And often, folks don’t want to bother to take the time to learn. To simplify the process, we’re offering five easy steps you can take today to help make your Facebook experience safer, more secure, and more private.

Step 1: Make Friend Lists

Yes, it will take some time, especially if you’re connected to a couple hundred friends already. But this step, while not the quickest, is fairly simple. And it will be one of the most useful things you can do on Facebook.

Friend lists, like they sound, are lists for categorizing your friends into various groups. The nice thing about this feature is that once you set these lists up, you won’t have to do it again. We suggest that you put your work colleagues and professional acquaintances into a friend list designated "work," personal friends you’re not very close with into a list called "Acquaintances," and people you’re related to into a list called "Family." Those three main categories will separate out the groups of "friends" who you may want to hide some information from.

To create a friend list, click on "Friends" at the top of the Facebook homepage. In the left-hand column, click "Friends" again under the "Lists" section. Now you’ll see a button at the top that says "Create New List". Click it. In the pop-up that appears, you can name your list and pick members. If you’ve ever shared an application with your friends, the process of doing this will be very familiar.

When you’ve finished making lists, you’ll be able to use them when selecting who can see what (or who can’t!) when configuring the security settings described below.

Step 2: Who Can See What on Your Profile

At the top right of Facebook, there’s a menu that many people probably ignore: "Settings." But this menu is now going to become your best friend. To get started, hover your mouse over the Settings menu and click "Privacy Settings" from the list that appears. On the next page, click "Profile." This takes you to a page where you can configure who gets to see certain information on your profile.

Before making changes, think carefully about the sorts of things you want public and the things you want private. Should "everyone" get to see photos you’re tagged in? Or would you like to limit this only to those you’ve specifically chosen as Facebook friends?

Underneath each section on this page (basic info, personal info, status, etc.), you can designate who gets to see that particular bit of information. For anyone not using custom lists (see step 1), the best thing to enter here is "Only Friends." Anything else opens up your profile information to people you may or may not know. For example, choosing "Everyone" makes that info public, "Friends of Friends" lets your friends’ friends see it, "My Networks and Friends" opens up your info to anyone in your networks – that means anyone in your city, your high school, your college, a professional organization you listed, etc.

You can also block certain groups from seeing these sections, too. On any item that offers an "Edit Custom Settings" option, you can click that link to display a pop-up box where you can choose people or lists to block (see where it says "Except these people"). If you haven’t made custom lists as explained in step 1 above, you can enter individual names here instead. (Sorry, mom, dad, boss – this is where you get blocked.)

 

Step 3: Who Can See Your Address and Phone Number

Did you list your address and phone number on Facebook? While that’s a handy feature, you may not want everyone you friended to have this information. To access this configuration page, you follow the same steps as above in step 2 to display the Profile Privacy page. You’ll notice that the page has two tabs at the top – click on the one that reads "Contact information."

As previously described above, you can again use the drop-down lists provided to designate who gets to see what and/or block certain people or lists from viewing this information. The sections on this page include "IM Screen Name," "Mobile Phone," "Other Phone," "Current Address," "Website," and your email.

Step 4: Change Who Can Find You on Facebook via Search

Sick of getting friend requests from old high school pals? While for some the beauty of Facebook is that it lets you reconnect with everyone you ever knew throughout your life, others find this intrusive and annoying. You’re not friends with any of these people anymore for a reason, right?

As it turns out, you can still enjoy Facebook without some folks ever knowing or finding you thanks to the search privacy settings.

Click on the "Settings" menu on Facebook’s homepage and then click "Search" on the following page. You’ll be taken to a Search Privacy page where you can specify who gets to find you on Facebook. Want to be wide open? Change the "Search Visibility" drop-down box to "Everyone." Want to keep it a little more limited? Select "My Networks and Friends," "Friends of Friends," or "My Networks and Friends of Friends" instead. Don’t want anyone finding you on Facebook? Change it to "Only Friends." That means only the people who you’ve already friended can find you in a Facebook search.

On this page, you can also configure what information displays when your info is returned as a search result (e.g. your profile picture, your friend list, etc.). In addition, you can check and uncheck the boxes for network-based searches too. For example, if you don’t want anyone from high school to find you, uncheck the box next to "people in high school networks."

Step 5: Stop Sharing Personal Info with Unknown Applications

Remember when we told you about what Facebook quizzes know about you? Using Facebook’s default settings, you’re unknowingly sharing a plethora of personal information (and your friends’ info too!) with various Facebook applications and the developers who created them. The problem is so bad that the ACLU recently created their own Facebook Quiz to demonstrate how much information an app has access to.

It’s time to take back control! From the Facebook homepage, hover your mouse over the "Settings" menu and choose "Privacy Settings" from the drop-down list. On the next page, click "Applications" then click the tab that reads "Settings" which is next to the "Overview" tab. (Oh, and if you want to really be freaked out, read that overview!)

On this page, you can check and uncheck boxes next to your personal information (picture, education history, wall, religious views, etc.). This controls what the applications your friends are using can see about you. Yes, your friends’ apps can see your personal info if you don’t make this change! Believe it or not, you don’t have the same control over your own apps. The best you can do is head over to the Applications page and delete the apps you’re not using anymore. (Use the "X" to remove them.) You see, once you authorize an application, you’re telling it that it’s OK to access any information associated with your account that it requires to work. While some developers may only pull what’s actually required, many others just pull in everything they can. Scary, isn’t it?

Conclusion

While this is by no means a comprehensive guide to Facebook security and privacy, these five steps can help you get started in creating a safer, more secure, and more private environment on the social network.

However, if you choose not to take any precautions, then you’ll only have yourself to blame when an errant wall post or naughty photo makes its way online and straight into Grandma’s News Feed, or worse, your boss’s. These days, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so go ahead and delve into those settings!

Courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com/

Filed under: Online safety Tips, , , , ,

5 Easy Steps to Stay Safe (and Private!) on Facebook

by Sarah Perez

September 16, 2009

Courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com/

 

When the President of the United States warns schoolchildren to watch what they say and do on Facebook, you know that we’ve got a problem…and it’s not one limited to the U.S.’s borders, either. People everywhere are mindlessly over-sharing on the world’s largest social network, without a second thought as to who’s reading their posts or what effect it could have on them further down the road. For example, did you know that 30% of today’s employers are using Facebook to vet potential employees prior to hiring? In today’s tough economy, the question of whether to post those embarrassing party pics could now cost you a paycheck in addition to a reputation. (Keep that in mind when tagging your friends’ photos, too, won’t you?)

But what can be done? It’s not like you can just quit Facebook, right? No – and you don’t have to either. You just need to take a few precautions.

Unbeknownst to most mainstream Facebook users, the social network actually offers a slew of privacy controls and security features which can help you batten down the hatches, so to speak. If used properly, you’ll never have to worry about whether you should friend the boss and your mom. You can friend anyone you want while comfortable in the knowledge that not everyone gets to see everything you post.

The problem in implementing these privacy options is that they’re just too confusing for most non-tech savvy people to handle. And often, folks don’t want to bother to take the time to learn. To simplify the process, we’re offering five easy steps you can take today to help make your Facebook experience safer, more secure, and more private.

Step 1: Make Friend Lists

Yes, it will take some time, especially if you’re connected to a couple hundred friends already. But this step, while not the quickest, is fairly simple. And it will be one of the most useful things you can do on Facebook.

Friend lists, like they sound, are lists for categorizing your friends into various groups. The nice thing about this feature is that once you set these lists up, you won’t have to do it again. We suggest that you put your work colleagues and professional acquaintances into a friend list designated "work," personal friends you’re not very close with into a list called "Acquaintances," and people you’re related to into a list called "Family." Those three main categories will separate out the groups of "friends" who you may want to hide some information from.

To create a friend list, click on "Friends" at the top of the Facebook homepage. In the left-hand column, click "Friends" again under the "Lists" section. Now you’ll see a button at the top that says "Create New List". Click it. In the pop-up that appears, you can name your list and pick members. If you’ve ever shared an application with your friends, the process of doing this will be very familiar.

When you’ve finished making lists, you’ll be able to use them when selecting who can see what (or who can’t!) when configuring the security settings described below.

Step 2: Who Can See What on Your Profile

At the top right of Facebook, there’s a menu that many people probably ignore: "Settings." But this menu is now going to become your best friend. To get started, hover your mouse over the Settings menu and click "Privacy Settings" from the list that appears. On the next page, click "Profile." This takes you to a page where you can configure who gets to see certain information on your profile.

Before making changes, think carefully about the sorts of things you want public and the things you want private. Should "everyone" get to see photos you’re tagged in? Or would you like to limit this only to those you’ve specifically chosen as Facebook friends?

Underneath each section on this page (basic info, personal info, status, etc.), you can designate who gets to see that particular bit of information. For anyone not using custom lists (see step 1), the best thing to enter here is "Only Friends." Anything else opens up your profile information to people you may or may not know. For example, choosing "Everyone" makes that info public, "Friends of Friends" lets your friends’ friends see it, "My Networks and Friends" opens up your info to anyone in your networks – that means anyone in your city, your high school, your college, a professional organization you listed, etc.

You can also block certain groups from seeing these sections, too. On any item that offers an "Edit Custom Settings" option, you can click that link to display a pop-up box where you can choose people or lists to block (see where it says "Except these people"). If you haven’t made custom lists as explained in step 1 above, you can enter individual names here instead. (Sorry, mom, dad, boss – this is where you get blocked.)

 

Step 3: Who Can See Your Address and Phone Number

Did you list your address and phone number on Facebook? While that’s a handy feature, you may not want everyone you friended to have this information. To access this configuration page, you follow the same steps as above in step 2 to display the Profile Privacy page. You’ll notice that the page has two tabs at the top – click on the one that reads "Contact information."

As previously described above, you can again use the drop-down lists provided to designate who gets to see what and/or block certain people or lists from viewing this information. The sections on this page include "IM Screen Name," "Mobile Phone," "Other Phone," "Current Address," "Website," and your email.

Step 4: Change Who Can Find You on Facebook via Search

Sick of getting friend requests from old high school pals? While for some the beauty of Facebook is that it lets you reconnect with everyone you ever knew throughout your life, others find this intrusive and annoying. You’re not friends with any of these people anymore for a reason, right?

As it turns out, you can still enjoy Facebook without some folks ever knowing or finding you thanks to the search privacy settings.

Click on the "Settings" menu on Facebook’s homepage and then click "Search" on the following page. You’ll be taken to a Search Privacy page where you can specify who gets to find you on Facebook. Want to be wide open? Change the "Search Visibility" drop-down box to "Everyone." Want to keep it a little more limited? Select "My Networks and Friends," "Friends of Friends," or "My Networks and Friends of Friends" instead. Don’t want anyone finding you on Facebook? Change it to "Only Friends." That means only the people who you’ve already friended can find you in a Facebook search.

On this page, you can also configure what information displays when your info is returned as a search result (e.g. your profile picture, your friend list, etc.). In addition, you can check and uncheck the boxes for network-based searches too. For example, if you don’t want anyone from high school to find you, uncheck the box next to "people in high school networks."

Step 5: Stop Sharing Personal Info with Unknown Applications

Remember when we told you about what Facebook quizzes know about you? Using Facebook’s default settings, you’re unknowingly sharing a plethora of personal information (and your friends’ info too!) with various Facebook applications and the developers who created them. The problem is so bad that the ACLU recently created their own Facebook Quiz to demonstrate how much information an app has access to.

It’s time to take back control! From the Facebook homepage, hover your mouse over the "Settings" menu and choose "Privacy Settings" from the drop-down list. On the next page, click "Applications" then click the tab that reads "Settings" which is next to the "Overview" tab. (Oh, and if you want to really be freaked out, read that overview!)

On this page, you can check and uncheck boxes next to your personal information (picture, education history, wall, religious views, etc.). This controls what the applications your friends are using can see about you. Yes, your friends’ apps can see your personal info if you don’t make this change! Believe it or not, you don’t have the same control over your own apps. The best you can do is head over to the Applications page and delete the apps you’re not using anymore. (Use the "X" to remove them.) You see, once you authorize an application, you’re telling it that it’s OK to access any information associated with your account that it requires to work. While some developers may only pull what’s actually required, many others just pull in everything they can. Scary, isn’t it?

Conclusion

While this is by no means a comprehensive guide to Facebook security and privacy, these five steps can help you get started in creating a safer, more secure, and more private environment on the social network.

However, if you choose not to take any precautions, then you’ll only have yourself to blame when an errant wall post or naughty photo makes its way online and straight into Grandma’s News Feed, or worse, your boss’s. These days, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so go ahead and delve into those settings!

Courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com/

Filed under: Online safety Tips, , , , ,

Online safety tips for kids

Safety By Age

 

2 to about 4:

This is the age of "lapware," when children start interacting with the computer in the presence of a parent or sibling. There are numerous activities and sites that are likely to be appropriate for this age group but, in most cases, it makes sense for the parent and child to be exploring together. This is not just a safety issue, but also a way to assure that the child has a pleasant experience, and to help build bonds between the child and the older person who is surfing the Internet with them.

Starting at about age 3, some children can benefit by having a bit more independence so that they can explore, experience discoveries, and make mistakes on their own. That doesn’t mean that they should be given free access. It’s probably best for parents to choose the Web sites they visit and not let them leave those sites on their own. You don’t necessarily need to stand over them or sit with them the entire time that they’re in a known safe site.

4 to about 7:

Children begin to explore on their own, but it’s still important for parents to be in very close touch with their children as they explore the Net. When your child’s at this age you should consider restricting her access only to sites that you have visited and feel are appropriate. For help with this matter, you can consider using one of the pre-screened Web sites in GetNetWise, as well as child-safe search engines.

At this age it’s important that kids experience positive results from sites that can enhance their discovery. The issue here isn’t so much avoiding dangerous sites, but making sure they are visiting sites that don’t frustrate them or lead them down blind alleys.

7 to about 10:

During this period, children begin looking outside the family for social validation and information. This is when peer pressure begins to become an issue for many kids. It’s also a time when kids are looking for more independence from parents, according to psychologist Richard Toft. During these years, children should be encouraged to do a bit more exploring on their own, but that doesn’t mean that the parents shouldn’t be close at hand. Just as you wouldn’t send children at this age to a movie by themselves, it’s important to be with them — or at least nearby — when they explore the Net. For this age group, consider putting the computer in a kitchen area, family room, den, or other areas where the child has access to Mom or Dad while using the computer. That way, they can be "independent" but not alone.

Also, consider using a filtering program or restricting them to sites that you locate via a child-safe search engine. Another option for this age group is a child-friendly browser.

When your child is at this stage, you need to be concerned not so much about what he’s doing online and with the PC as how long he’s spending on the PC. Be sure that his time on the computer and the Internet doesn’t take away from all his other activities. Kids need variety, and it’s not a good idea for them to be spending all of their time on any single activity, even reading books. One way to deal with this might be through the use of a software time-limiting tool. It’s even important to be sure that they are varying what they do online. Encourage them to explore a variety of Web sites, not just one or two of their favorites.

10 to about 12:

During this pre-teen period, many kids want to experience even more independence. If children aren’t already doing so, this is a time when they should start using the Internet to help with schoolwork and, perhaps, discover resources for their hobbies, sports activities, and other interests. This is also an age when you have to be concerned not just about what kids see and do on the Internet, but how long they are online. Your job is to help them manage their independence. Set limits on how often and how long kids can be online, and be sure that they are engaged in other activities such as sports, music, and book-reading.

At about age 12 children begin to hone their abstract reasoning skills. With these enhanced skills, they begin to form more of their own values and begin to take on the values of their peers. Before that they’re more likely to reflect the values of their parents. It’s important at this age to begin to emphasize the concept of credibility. Kids need to understand that not everything they see on the Internet is true or valuable, just as not all advice they get from their peers is valuable. A good way to illustrate this is for them to do a search for sites on subjects they know a lot about — favorite athletes or musicians, subjects they love in school, etc.

12 to about 14:

This is the time when many kids become very social and when they are most likely to be interested in online chat. Go over the basic privacy rules with your kids to be sure they understand never to give out information about themselves or to get together with anyone they meet online without first checking with their parents. Also, emphasize the importance of never exchanging photographs with people they don’t know. At this age they need to understand clearly the fact that people on the Internet may not be who they appear to be.

This is also an age where many children start expressing interest in sexual matters. It is natural for them to be curious about the opposite (or even same) sex and not unheard of for them to want to look at photos and explore sexual subjects. During this early exploratory period, it is especially important for kids to know that their parents are around and aware of what they are doing. You may not need to be in the same room as your kids the entire time they’re on the Net, but they do need to know that you and other family members can walk in and out of the room at any time, and will ask them about what they are doing online.

Don’t be alarmed if they are interested in exploring sexual material. How you manage this, of course, depends on your own view of such material. It’s important, however, to be aware that some of the materials they might find on the Internet are different — and more explicit — than some of the magazines that may have been around when you were that age. If kids search hard enough, they can probably find Web sites and newsgroups that explore sexual fantasies that they — and even you — might find disturbing or even frightening. This is probably the strongest argument for Internet filters but it’s also an argument for close parental involvement, reinforcing your family’s values, and creating a climate of trust and openness between parents and children.

Children at this age are likely to be interested in games that they can download from the Internet to play either online or offline. Some of these games may have content that parents feel is inappropriate, so it’s important to be aware of what your kids are doing on the computer, even when they’re not connected to the Internet. Monitoring software may help you in this effort.

This is also a period when many parents choose to speak with their children about sexual matters. It may be a good idea to think about how you might react if you discover that your child has visited places on the Internet that you feel are inappropriate.

You can use filtering and monitoring software at this age, but you may start to run into some resistance. What’s important is that you are honest with your kids and that they know what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you use filtering software, for example, you need to explain to them that you are doing it to protect them from material that you consider to be harmful. Just as you might not let them go to certain places in your community, you are exercising your parental right to keep them from surfing to certain types of places in cyberspace.

14 to about 17:

This can be one of the most exciting and challenging periods of a child’s (and parent’s) life. Your teen is beginning to mature physically, emotionally, and intellectually and is anxious to experience increasing independence from parents. To some extent that means loosening up on the reins, but by no means does it mean abandoning your parenting role. Teens are complicated in that they demand both independence and guidance at the same time.

Teens are also more likely to engage in risky behavior both online and offline. While the likelihood of a teen being abducted by someone he meets in a chat room is extremely low, there is always the possibility that he will meet someone online who makes him feel good and makes him want to strike up an in-person relationship. It is extremely important that teens understand that people they meet online are not necessarily who they seem to be.

Although it’s sometimes difficult to indoctrinate teens with safety information, they can often understand the need to be on guard against those who might exploit them. Teens need to understand that to be in control of themselves means being vigilant, on the alert for people who might hurt them.

The greatest danger is that a teen will get together offline with someone she meets online. If she does meet someone she wants to get together with, it’s important that she not go alone and that she meet that person in a public place.

It’s important for parents to remember what it was like when they were teenagers. Set reasonable expectations and don’t overreact if and when you find out that your teen has done something online that you don’t approve of. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it seriously and exercise appropriate control and discipline, but pick your battles and try to look at the bigger picture.

If your teen confides in you about something scary or inappropriate that he encountered online, your first response shouldn’t be to take away his Internet privileges. Try to be supportive and work with your teen to help prevent this from happening in the future. And remember that your teen will soon be an adult and needs to know not just how to behave but how to exercise judgment, reaching her own conclusions on how to explore the Net and life in general in a safe and productive manner.

Courtesy: Getnetwise

Filed under: Online safety Tips, ,

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