Instagram row: Parents must teach kids proper social media use

Instagram row Parents must teach kids proper social media use

NEW DELHI: Instagram chat group Bois Locker Room wherein rapes were glorified and underage girls were objectified shook the national consciousness and now, leading behavioral experts have urged the society to strongly consider the application of gender sensitization and social media literacy for the school-going children.

The incident came to light after a girl from South Delhi shared a screenshot of the group chat on social media. Meanwhile, another alleged version of a girls’ locker room started trending on Twitter. Many screenshots shared on the platform alleged that just like the boys’ version, there is a similar chat group that sexualises and objectifies boys and talks trash about their bodies.

According to Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, there is immense exposure that young minds have to the media.

“While it may be difficult for parents to continually monitor what media their children come across directly or indirectly, it is possible to have the right conversations with them to help them build a good understanding of how the media can influence their perceptions, understanding and their behaviours,” Parikh told IANS.

Annoyed at such growing incidents on social media, the British government last year announced an “online harms” white paper that aimed to make online platforms liable to protect their users, especially children. “The impact of harmful content and activity can be particularly damaging for children, and there are growing concerns about the potential impact on their mental health and well-being,” said the joint proposal from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Home Office.

The interim codes of practice, and more detailed proposals on the online harms regulation, are expected to be published in the spring. According to experts, it is a must that parents discuss sex, sexuality, gender-related issues and take steps within their own homes to ensure there is a sensitive approach towards these.

“At the same time, these need to become serious aspects which are more robustly taken up within schools and not just through training programs by trainers, teachers and counsellors but also through the utilization of peer influencers within the schools,” explained Parikh.

Technology is not all bad and similarly, social media also serves a useful purpose of connectivity. “However, excessive usage of technology/virtual social platforms at the cost of one’s sleep-wake cycle and one’s overall health is not desirable,” said Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head, Department of Mental Health & Behavioral Sciences, Max Healthcare.

Lack of discipline, disobedience and excessive screen time go hand in hand. It is important to maintain certain rules at home for all, including limited screen time, division of labour, encouraging age-appropriate self-help skills, avoiding screen usage around mealtime and bedtime and engaging in healthy conversations with family.

“Consistent and patient handling by parents, who themselves serve as role models, shall be helpful,” said Malhotra.

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