On the 9th of December, we met with parents of prepubescents and teenagers to discuss cybersmart parenting and how to equip children to deal with online violence and more importantly, foster an open environment where kids feel comfortable opening up to their parents when they do encounter violence.
The session began with a presentation by Anupama Srinivasan of Prajnya. Some of the issues that were flagged up during the presentation were:
- The online habits of both parents and children
- Usage in terms of time and content and information shared on online portals
- Cyber-bullying which includes abusive texts and emails, posting unkind or threatening images, videos or messages on social media websites, inappropriate image tagging etc..
- Where to draw the line between what is private and what is public.
- The importance of digital reputations in securing higher education and career opportunities.
- The crossover from offline violence to online violence and its repercussions
In the discussion that followed, the following opinions and concerns were shared:
- Many parents had no idea what their children did online
- It was believed that parental controls were not really useful in regulating online behaviour and children found a way to bypass them. Other measures, such as a 9 PM ban on all electronics, no whatsapp after 9 and placing computers in living rooms or having an open door policy when kids were on the laptop were suggested.
- Related to this, a majority of the group felt that their children were far more tech-savvy than they could ever be and therefore felt that it might not be easy to navigate behaviour on a medium that they were unsure of. In this regard, a parent commented that while "they were internet immigrants, their children were internet natives".
- A recurring concern was the need to make sure that children approached their parents when they were being bullied or harassed on cyberspace.
- The prevalence of closed confessions groups on social media where people could post anonymous rumours was also pointed out and many parents felt that the school needed to take some responsibility in sensitizing children about online violence and mediating altercations.
- The issue of what to do when your child is the bullier rather than the bullied was also addressed.
- In case of online-violence, it was emphasised that victim-blaming in these instances would lead to further alienation and hurt.
- Sexually explicit online content, cyber-stalking, victim-shaming and sexting were also touched upon.
- A small group of young adults who attended the session had this to say: They stated that while much of the information provided made the online world seem very bleak, parents should not broach the subject with their kids with panic or fear. That policing internet use and the fear of punitive action would lead children to find other avenues to get online and hide it from their parents. Rather than taking away their children's freedoms, it would be essential to have open, honest conversations about online behaviour.
- It was unanimously agreed that follow-up sessions with the kids as well as one with both groups together would be extremely useful to further the conversation.
A big Thank You to our GEM Rinku Mecheri, for being such a wonderful host!