Avanti Sharma, a software developer and internet safety advocate (pictured), argued more measures need to be put in place to encourage a secure online world, as she detailed plans to launch a pair of tools for apps designed to curb impersonations and reduce exposure to harmful content.

In an interview with Mobile World Live (MWL), the head of business development at Luxembourg-based educational technology company Workshop4Me said social media has transformative powers to inform, connect and educate people. However, 37 per cent of internet users under the age of 18 in Europe have interacted with strangers online, the European Parliament revealed in 2023, with half of the offenders disguising their identities.

“Instagram has a user base of 31.5 per cent of people below the age of 25. That is a large database of young people and unfortunately, that’s where cyber-attackers go to target them for blackmail purposes,” explained Sharma, as she referred to extortion cases impacting teens and pre-teens.

To address this, Sharma, who taught coding to children and is an ambassador to GirlsInTech Luxembourg, has developed software tools Studified and R-U-Sure to help limit children’s exposure to potential offenders and inappropriate content. The products have “fully functioning prototypes”, with efforts underway to comply with protocols to enable a launch in the next two years.

Reduce spontaneity
Studified is a software plug-in that connects to social media apps and helps teen users identify peers and friends they know in real life through “a student badge”, which can only be accessed by verifying their student code that matches an official database.

Sharma explained Studified was made to “distinguish” users who are their age from strangers and impersonators, giving teens and parents “that surety of being safe online”.

Meanwhile, R-U-Sure issues a warning notification on entering potentially risky websites, informing teens of its content to “significantly reduce that spontaneity” of engaging in certain sites and making that information accessible before they land on the page.

The plan is to launch Studified in Luxembourg in the next 18 months, with R-U-Sure to follow. Sharma, who made appearances on the debate stage at MWC Barcelona earlier this year, hopes they will expand availability outside Europe by 2026.

“Interactions with industry leaders are also taking place,” said the developer, noting she had presented the tools to operator Orange and software giant Amdocs.