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Internet, Social Media And Juvenile Delinquency

Internet, Social Media And Juvenile Delinquency

For the past few days we have been reading and hearing about a shocking social media scandal involving a number of school boys in Delhi called Bois Locker Room. It is very disturbing to see the criminality that is spread through social media platforms. It is also very upsetting to see this happening in the national capital, where terrible crimes have been committed against women in the past, leading to much public outcry and formation of stricter laws. A news report on The Quint reported the horrible incident in the following lines:

“An Instagram chat group called ‘Bois Locker Room’, with hundreds of boys from south Delhi, was allegedly used for sharing photos of underage girls, objectifying them, and promoting rape culture, revealed a user on Twitter on Sunday, 3 May. A day later on Monday, a Delhi schoolboy was taken into custody by the police. ‘We have apprehended one minor boy last night in this case,’ a Delhi Police source told The Quint. The Delhi Police (Crime Branch Cell) had taken cognizance of the matter and have filed a case under the Information Technology Act on the basis of social media posts. The boys allegedly shared morphed photos of underage girls, body shaming and slut shaming them on the group chat”. (By Mythreyee Ramesh in The Quint)

The sequence of the events, as described by India Today, goes this way:

1. A group of South Delhi teens (mostly schoolboys) create an Instagram group chat called Bois Locker Room to share photos of women (many of them underage). The group chat involves discussions that objectify women and make use of graphic sexual language.

2. Screenshots of the chats are leaked and are posted online by some of the victims, blowing the lid on the controversy. The chats had morphed pictures and also derogatory and explicit comments on women and their bodies.

3. The screenshots from Bois Locker Room instantly go viral and become a talking point on social media.

4. As the chats are exposed, the members of the group chat retaliate and threaten to leak nude photographs of the women who outed them.

5. The Delhi Commission for Women takes suo motu cognisance of the case on May 4 and sends notices to Delhi Police and Instagram. Asks them to file a report on action taken by May 8.

6. Delhi Police Cyber Cell files an FIR against unidentified persons under Sections of the Indian Penal Code and the IT Act. Becomes the first legal case to come out of an Instagram chat in India.

7. Initial probe shows students from three prominent schools in South Delhi were part of the Instagram group chat.

8. On May 5, a 15-year-old boy from a prominent school is taken into custody by Delhi Police Cyber Cell. Police also identified 10 members who were part of the infamous group. While most are schoolboys, a few were found to be in college. The boys will be called for questioning over the week. The devices used to engage in the offensive, vulgar communication have also been seized from the identified group members.

9. Instagram owner Facebook also reacts to the controversy. "We absolutely do not allow behaviour that promotes sexual violence or exploits anyone, especially women and young people, and have actioned content violating our Community Standards as we were made aware of it. We have policies that disallow the sharing of non-consensual intimate imagery, as well as threats to share such imagery and we take this issue very seriously. Ensuring our community can express themselves in a safe and respectful way is our top priority,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

10. Meanwhile, a new angle to the controversy has also come out on social media. One of the women who had initially outed the group has had her old conversations leaked which show her sexualising men and using homophobic and misogynistic language. The chats also show the woman mocking the differently-abled. Social media users have been using the term Girls Locker Room to discuss how deeply embedded the problem is.

The controversy will go on. However, our attempt here is to see the root causes of the perverted mindset and the sickening behaviour in a section of our school kids. This is the tip of an iceberg of a simmering educational catastrophe. If we, educators, parents, students and educational psychologists, do not take remedial steps now, it will be too late.

There are various causes to the problem we see in our teenage school kids these days. Remember, today’s children are intellectually superior, but emotionally immature. The reasons for this immaturity and delinquent behaviour can be traced to the family, school, society and social media.

Family

Family is the basic and the best school for the formation of a child. Family experience gives children their basic formation, both positive and negative, during the initial period. Parents are role models to their kids. The development of intellectual, emotional, psychological and moral formation takes place in the family. Depending on the atmosphere, it can be positive, mature, integrated and balanced or it can be negative and filled with anger, pugnacity, maliciousness, fear, tension, maladjustment, mental health hazards, personality adjustment and sexual perverseness.

School

School is where the child nurtures the initial learnings from the family. If the schools are only worried about their reputation and academic achievement, it can downplay the importance of values and discipline. This will affect the overall growth of the child and the well-being of the society at large. If a school works only for money, fame and name, then the moral and psychological development of the child will be hampered. When a school encourages competition rather than collaboration and team work, it is bound to make the children undisciplined and inhuman.

Society

Children learn a lot from the society in which they live. Several studies have highlighted the influence of environment on kids and their formation. Many children grow as delinquent and engage in anti-social behaviour. According to psychologist Charles Wilfred Valentine, the term delinquency refers to the breaking of some law. Those children whose anti-social activities take such a serious turn that they are to be punished are called delinquents. They steal from others, damage property and commit other heinous offences such as murder, sexual misconduct and abuse. The use of internet and social media for sexual misconduct, pornography, morphing pictures, etc., also comes under delinquent behaviour.

Some major social causes of juvenile delinquency can be traced to quarrels among parents, p resence of stepfather/stepmother, lack of parental affection, poverty, very lenient or very strict discipline at home (parenting style), divorce or separation of parents, d istressing environment at home, company of other delinquents (peer group), mistreatment from teachers, and lack of discipline at school, among others.

Mass media and internet

Today’s young generation, especially those in cities and urban areas, are victims of loneliness. They may be financially well off but many of them are utterly poor in human and social values. Apartment life also has its impact on children and when parents are out working, kids are most likely to be alone at home. This leads them to engage with the internet or mass media excessively.

Children are too much dependent on the internet and social media. WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are their primary source of knowledge and entertainment. As a result, already shrinking family ties and interactions are fading very fast. The increased number of schoolchildren, especially teenagers, committing suicide is an eye-opener for all. Many of them are growing in a money-oriented, selfish, immoral, violent and hateful environment, unmindful of their duties towards their parents, fellow beings, society and the nature. In addition to this, there are increased incidents of gang wars, ragging and violence, combined with rumour-mongering and spreading of fake news.

When parents are busy with work, their concerns can often be limited to earning more money than nourishing their kids with good values and love. They provide latest gadgets like laptops and smart phones to keep their kids happy and justify it by saying it is needed to keep in touch with them. But, children are not taught about the danger of it at home or school. They make excessive use of their gadgets by chatting with their peers and friends. Incidents of misuse of cameras for nefarious activities are frequently reported all over the country. Since these children are not taught about cyber rules, they tend to misuse the benefit of the smart phone. Schools cannot do more in this unless parents understand the situation and take proactive steps. They must teach their wards about the use and abuse of gadgets. Otherwise, incidents like Bois Locker Room will be on the rise.

The Delhi incident is only the tip of the iceberg. As long as the commodification and objectification of women continues and they are discriminated against in the society, such incidents cannot be eliminated. Often treated as an object and religiously discriminated against, women can be at a disadvantageous position due to caste and ethnicity as well. They are culturally considered low, and media portrays them as weak and vulnerable. Most movies and TV serials depict women as a commodity and show violence against them as a natural way of things. Children learn from these stories from a very young age and when they grow older they do not think otherwise as these stereotypes are ingrained in their minds. Our education system should be comprehensive enough to guide children away from the misleading stories portrayed in movies and TV shows.

What parents should do?

Proper atmosphere at the house is the only way to bring up children. Parents must adopt the right kind of attitude towards their children from early years. They should have knowledge of child guidance and spend time with their kids, monitoring and leading them on the right path. Instead of giving a large amount as pocket money, parents should let children experience the hardships of life and teach them to be compassionate and responsible citizens.

This does not mean that parents should have an attitude of overprotection. Enough freedom and respect for children must be given. Parents should keep a watch on their children’s friends and teenagers must be monitored for their betterment. Any negligence in these can be detrimental in the long run.

Schools must do their part

In schools, there should be trained teachers, who can help those children who are emotionally disturbed or aggressive. Every child should be given education keeping in mind his/her interests and abilities. Proper arrangement should be made for the guidance of students. Coordination of school and home should be obtained in guiding students.

Recognizing delinquents and assisting them

The delinquent behaviour seen in children can be of different types, hence, the same method of treatment cannot be adopted with each and every delinquent child. According to Hadfield, delinquency is of the following types: Benign Delinquency, Simple Delinquency, Reaction Delinquency, Psycho-neurotic Delinquency, and Temperamental Delinquency. Based on the behaviour of children we can identify the type of delinquency and help them to overcome the negative sides in them.

Benign Delinquency (BD) is a crime from the point of view of law and order but from the mental health point of view it is not abnormal behaviour. Such delinquency can be cured easily. If the children are provided with good environment and their energy is diverted towards useful channels, then they will adopt socially approved behaviour.

Simple Delinquency (SD) is that type of anti-social behaviour which develops as a direct effect of bad environment. The cure in this depends upon the development of desirable social and moral behaviour among children.

Reaction Delinquency (RD) develops on account of the evil effects of the environment. This is the reaction of the child against the society or environment from which the child feels that he has got only sorrow and nothing else. Remember, it cannot be cured by corporal punishment. To treat such delinquents, the reasons for his anti-social reactions should be found and efforts should be made to remove them.

Psycho-neurotic Delinquency (PD) is created on account of the expression in an anti-social manner of the repressed tendencies. Delinquency of this type can be cured through psychoanalysis.

Temperamental Delinquency (TD) is frequently found among teenagers. This develops on account of the malfunctioning of certain psychological activities. Such delinquency can be cured through the treatment of psychological disorder.

The incident in question needs serious study and remedial measures in our family set-up. The role of parents in nurturing their wards must be properly understood and acted upon. Schools must make sure that they take care of the overall development of their students. Safe environment must be the hallmark of every school. There cannot be any form of abuse: sexual, physical, psychological or emotional. This includes inappropriate relationships with fellow students or with adults and bullying among peers.

It is the collective responsibility of parents, schools, educational psychologists, law-enforcement agencies, governments and cyber experts to help our kids to desist from anti-social, criminal and undesirable activities. Let us work for a better India where humanity matters.Writer is the Secretary of Jesuit Education South Asia (JEASA), and National Adviser to JAAI).

(Published on 11th May 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 20)