When raising their young, parents have to take care about their physical safety. Cautious elders keep a sharp lookout for suspicious characters or strangers frequenting their locality; they also keep tabs on the type of company their wards are keeping in school or college. In earlier, more innocent times, such caution helped prevent youngsters from exposing themselves to unnecessary risk. But that was all in physical space considered ‘real’ — the household compound, the route taken to school and playground, the neighborhood which could encompass an entire village or large parts of a town. But we are now living in an age where children and teegers vigate alone in virtual space. Evil characters lurk all over cyber world, infesting social media, online chat-rooms and what not. Youngsters can transmit live to the entire world what they are doing at any moment. Many of them have no idea or simply do not bother about how vulnerable they are to paedophiles, sex maniacs and crimils who can track them down to their addresses. Sometimes, it is youngsters who leave home, brainwashed by the toxic propaganda of terror group recruiters. Parents remain blissfully uware of how riskily online their wards are until it is too late. This pattern has been repeating in several cases of Indian youths joining the dreaded ISIS or other terror outfits, of impressioble girls lured by blackmailers and human traffickers. In neighboring Bangladesh, it has emerged that the Dhaka cafe attackers were mostly youths from well-to-do families, studying in elite institutions, living apparently clean lives. They had suddenly disappeared a few months back, only to surface recently on the ISIS website as its vaunted jihadist fighters. One youth’s shocked father has remarked: ‘Allah knows how strong these people were who could break a parents’ love, despite their strongest effort to impart the best values to their children’. This is the kind of heartbreak awaiting parents when their children’s secret lives explode into the open. Parents now need to follow their children closely in social media, monitor actively what they are doing in virtual space. We are, after all, living in an age where the boundary line between virtual and real worlds has begun to blur with dangerous consequences.
food for thought