According to reports, the lockdown has led to a 95 per cent spike in Indians consuming pornographic content online. What’s more alarming? The rise in the number of youngsters seeking gratification in sexting, steamy video chats and sharing sexual content. Bivas Chatterjee, special public prosecutor for cybercrime cases (Government of West Bengal) says lockdown has seen a surge in minors indulging in virtual sex. “We are bracing ourselves for a spike in revenge porn and blackmailing with the help of personally identified data once the lockdown lifts,” he warned.
Understanding the triggers
Teenagers have always enjoyed risque conversations and mild flirting. But in the pandemic household, where almost every individual is glued to his/her private screen, they are also the most vulnerable. “It is traumatic for them to be deprived of everything that is important to them – friends, campus, social life, and maybe even physical intimacy with their partners. Unlike their parents, they have no professional or familial duties that take up their attention, but they are constantly being monitored by parents. It is irritating, frustrating and pushing them to seek gratification in the only private space they have – online,” said Dr Gautam Bandyopadhyay, Professor of Department of Psychiatry, Medical College (Kolkata). The desire to embark on sexual adventures virtually, sometimes even with strangers, is both because of boredom and an act of rebellion, he says.
CAUTIOUS PARENTS OF TEENAGERS
Mou Maitra, mother of a 16-year-old: “Connecting with a 16-year-old is easier said than done. My daughter has her own life and a busy one too. She spends a whole lot of time on the Internet, like most kids of her age. We are not privy to what she is doing there, as we trust her. However, we try to keep her engaged in activities like cooking, discussing recipes, watching movies together.”
Sudipto Gupta, father of a 19-year-old: “It’s impossible to track every digital footprint left behind by your kid. I make sure that I warn my daughter about how internet exposure can harm her, especially regarding the threat to her reputation and privacy. I also encourage her to discuss her relationships, while giving her enough space. Just want her to feel comfortable about talking to me whenever she feels like it.”
PEER PRESSURE, MORE OPTIONS & BOREDOM
Yuvraj Majumdar, student of B.Com student, St. Xavier’s College: It has always been easy for us to meet new people on apps and social media. The lockdown and the resulting boredom has made online dating, video calls, texting, all the more attractive as a proposition. Everyone has always liked to talk about sex, now you just have a hundred different ways to do it. How you choose to navigate the options, says a lot about how responsible you are.
Manya Ahalani, student of Business Management (Hons) St. Xavier’s College: The kind of cyber bullying we have seen in Delhi or Kolkata recently is not only targeted at girls but also boys. Peer pressure plays a very important part in shaping our choices. It is important to have a safety net in your friends and your social network.
Soumik Dasgupta, BBA LLB (Hons), Symbiosis Law School Pune: Phone sex, or texting, or even sex via video calls – pretty common with people my age. However, with social distancing and lockdown, everyone’s rediscovering virtual sex with great enthusiasm. As a student, I had always viewed these things as a means of harmless fun.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO….
1) Communicate with your kids, explain the fallouts of sexually explicit sexual interaction on digital platforms. Motivate them to get involved in healthy activities instead
2)Don’t take away their phone, it will worsen things. Instead make him/her understand the consequences if he/she misses it.
3) Lockdown has changed sleeping patterns. Many kids now wake up late in the afternoon and stay awake at night. Encourage healthy sleeping habits..
4) Be authoritative, not judgemental.Monitor the websites and chat rooms they frequent. Does not matter if they feel offended. They need to be explained that it is for their safety.
5) Remind them that any private, sensitive material in the wrong hands can be dangerous, and return to haunt them even as adults and at workplaces.
– Tips from Dr Piya Nandi, clinical psychologist