Recently, a friend told me this story: She was on a school trip to a remote part of the country and had no Internet access. Meanwhile her mother, added on to her Facebook account, was posting sentimental messages every day, for the entire week she was away, on her wall. The wall posts read: “Baby, missing you so much. Come back, my Barbie.” “Dadi made your favourite halwa today. Everyone’s missing you so much, Buntoo.” “Come back soon. Mummy is missing her little bunny rabbit.” Needless to say, “Buntoo” or “Barbie” or “bunny rabbit” was mortified when she accessed her Facebook account a week later. This excessive display of motherly love led to merciless teasing in school.
And it’s not just parents who are the culprits. Another teen I know got into serious trouble when her uncle started following her on Twitter. Of course, there is no rule about uncles using Twitter but, hey, there is some etiquette to be followed and part of it, I think, is not using Twitter to become an amateur sleuth. Said uncle was privy to a conversation between the teen and one of her followers, who is a man. The follower sent her an “LOL” message in response to one of her jokes. The next day, the teen was hauled up by her dad for talking to strange men in an inappropriate way. A little digging disclosed that her “Twitter-friendly uncle” had made a long-distance call to alert his friend about the “love you lots” aka LOL comment. The poor teen spent hours explaining to her parents that on Twitter and elsewhere in the texting world, LOL stands for “laugh out loud”.
Rule book: Don’t force your child to be friends with you on Facebook.
As disturbing as it is for our parents to know that we have an online life, it is worse for us to stumble upon what our parents do on the World Wide Web. Imagine if your mother ran a blog which was about “How to live your life like you’re still 18”?
We are always lectured to by our folks on how to conduct ourselves on the Web: Be wary of hackers, what to do if you are targeted by a predator, not to make friends with strangers, and not to leave personal details online, etc. But do parents ever stop to think for a moment about the kind of damage they can do? Is it any wonder then that teens react negatively to parents trying to get to know about their online life?
Nidhi Varma,17, a student at The British School, New Delhi, says: “Parents should stick to what they know, and not try to become friendly with their kids by joining social networking sites and publicly shower affection. It’s so not cool.” Priyanka Dandwani, 16, also a student at The British School, adds: “I wouldn’t mind if my mom is on my Facebook friend list, as long as she respects my privacy. My dad, on the other hand, no way dude! My dad on my tail online is scary.”
If there are rules for us teenagers on how to behave online, there should be rules for our dear parents too. Here are some that we think would make our online lives easier to manage:
• Dear Parent, if you have a Facebook account, do not send us friend requests. Not at all. Ever. And if you persist, we will ignore them.
• No public displays of affection online. That’s for within the four walls of the house. Never online.
• If you have a Facebook account, do not put up pictures that make you look sexy or drunk or totally out of sorts. Or, for that matter, baby pictures of us naked. We get teased, and it is not cute. Really.
• If you have a cool blog, do not tell us about it, because we might just be tempted to have a look, and the results can be damaging to our mental health. Also, don’t mention us and our zillion problems on it. Come on, your friends might think it’s cute to have a brat, but our friends might think we are mental.
• If you start discussing us with our uncles and aunts, the twice-removed cousin we don’t even know, never use our nicknames. Have these conversations on the telephone. We know it’s so old-fashioned, but at least that way those embarrassing nicknames stay secret.
Shrutika Shridhar is 17 and studies at The British School, New Delhi.
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