01 April 2008

Secret world

My nephew sms-ed me the URL of his new website yesterday. His website had a wonderful introduction by a friend of his, a girl in her late teens, who provided her full name, email ID, and links to her Blogger and Flickr accounts below the introduction. Her blogs featured her photo and some intimate thoughts.

This made me wonder about the ease, and courage, with which youngsters shared their private information on the Internet (see my previous post). Oblivious of stalkers and Internet-related crimes that we read about almost everyday (perhaps less so in India), youngsters today feel free about making their private information public. Some even display risqué photos of theirs on social networking sites.

It’s universally accepted that young people – particularly women – are prime targets of crime. Numbers vary from country to country, and although in most cases young women do not report the crime, giving away too much personal information online exposes these young women and makes them vulnerable to stalking… and harm. So, what makes them divulge personal information publicly?

It seems to be peer pressure, as I found out after talking to several of them. Most teenagers believe that since everyone is doing it (a) they should too, and (b) it is safe to do so. After all, it’s only their friends who are looking at their photos and reading their stuff. So confident are they in what they are doing that there are competitions among them to make their profiles more and more ‘colourful’ to attract friends.

So engrossed are they in their online preoccupation that these youngsters are oblivious to the fact that the friends they attract online may also include stalkers and sexual predators. To them, these crimes don’t happen often enough – so it’s a risk worth taking. Fearlessly, they pursue their online lives, hiding away in a secret world their low-tech parents and teachers are afraid to enter.

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