Framing Change, In Focus 28th July, 2016

Dear parents, do you know what your kids are up to on the internet?.

When internet came about, it was marked as a revolution. It was a revolution indeed. The possibilities defined by our existence had suddenly widened. A universe of exciting new stuff had opened itself up in front of us. You could sit in your room in a country in Asia and be conversing with somebody in Europe. All those answers that your curious mind wanted, was often just a click away. For a lot of us, the internet gave us an alternate space to exist. A space where you could define your own identity. The idea of being in a social space without actually physically being present in a certain space was and is all too exciting!

But, since there is always a but, the experience of being an Internet user is not all that simple and harmless. This is something, I am sure all of us have realised as we access the internet each passing day. As a space, the internet too is a place where bullying happens, where people are harassed, where your information can be misutilized, basically your well being can be harmed.  

This week we launched our #StandWithMe, Be my safe space campaign. The conversation started with a discussion around inter-generational dialogue. We released a video a few hours back. The video asks a very simple question, “Dear parents, do you know what your kids are up to on the internet?”. OH, NO NO NO. Is that what you are saying? How can our parents know? I get it. I am 22 years old and even as I write this post I don’t want them to know. My father always says if you are so paranoid about it, maybe you are doing something wrong. My mother says she hates it that I am so “private”. *Sigh*

So here’s the deal. Initially when I added them, I was like “Hey great! See what you want. I am justified in doing what I do. I don’t care”. The bubble burst a few months later when they commented about the language I was using and something about some friend doing something. And that was it. I did not want to be explaining things to my parents.Especially, when we have never had that culture of having open conversations in our family.So, I changed my settings and gave them the looks and feels that would raise no uncomfortable questions, if not suspicion.

The point I am really trying to move towards is that why is it important for us be in an open, accepting space with our parents about the internet? It’s the horror story they always tell us – It’s a big bad world. Well, parts of it is true but that of course should not limit us from leading fulfilling exciting lives. However, when life gets tough, the tough has to get going. And it’s a lot more easier if you have a support system. Your support system can be anybody and anything – your friends, family, teachers, pets, mountains. But let’s face it at a certain stage in life when we are still figuring out things, parents and teachers play a huge role. And wouldn’t it be nice to share relationships with them where you don’t have to constantly strategize your next move?

When we see the video we realise that it’s not that the youth does not want their parents to be ignorant about their internet usage. All that they want is a space where they are not restricted all together from exploring the exciting space of Internet. All of this leads us to the question of how can we move towards making the internet a safer space and also building a safe space between the youth and their parents, to enable these conversations which can help tackle the issue of online safety. What do you think? Have you experienced something similar to this? Do tell us your story! Because well, who knows, maybe our individual stories are not just isolated experiences and can be a part of a larger story on the world wide web!

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