Today I read an article in "The Indian Express "that spoke about how teachers in some schools of Chennai went on social networking sites using fake ids and then tried to add the students of their school on their network as their friends so that they can spy on them- trying to see what they spoke to each other. Students who were found speaking badly of the teachers or criticising the school were pulled up later in the school by the principal!! The parents also encouraged this- they were particularly keen to know if their children were interacting with classmates of the opposite sex and what was it that they were talking!

To say that I was shocked  when I read this, would be an understatement! I think it is a serious case of deceit being practiced by adults in an attempt to “control” and wield their power over these youngsters! It impinges on their freedom of expression ( a fundamental right that this country grants all its citizens). How can we prevent teenagers from doing what comes naturally to them in this age?  All children have at some time in their lives ( ourselves included) have made fun of teachers, drawn cartoons of them and mimicked them. If teachers cannot take this in their stride then there is something very SERIOUSLY wrong with the individuals who are entering the teaching profession today. And about preventing interactions with the opposite sex in the  real or  virtual world- I think it is laying the ground for some serious personality problems later on in life!

 I am a pretty ordinary middle class mom and I do realize that social networking sites can be addictive and interfere with children’s concentration in studies. When our daughter turned thirteen she wanted a face book id. After a lot of discussion we agreed provided she limited her interactions on FB to about 2 hours a week. Another ground rule that we laid was that she could not accept friend requests from people she did not know. I must say that she has used these privileges really well and has been cautious about accepting friend requests. There are a lot of her classmates- both boys and girls, their parents, her teachers, her cousins, aunts, uncles on her list of friends. I am also on the list of friends among her class mates. None of us here have used any fake IDs and we are who we are. Sometimes I enjoy joining a conversation with some comments. I have seen some cartoons that some of her classmates have put on their profiles and the only thing that strikes me when I see them are that these children are very talented. Knowing the teachers of the school she goes to, I am sure they would also be taking it all in with a smile.

About the interactions between boys and girls –I would say that it is probably the most healthy thing that can happen in a co ed school. It is important that they grow up studying together and being each other’s  friends so that when they are adults the opposite sex is not a mystery that has to be unravelled! It also prepares them for mature relationships with the opposite sex because if you have been in a coed and had a healthy interaction with the opposite sex you are less likely to lose your head or heart over someone simply because that person looked at you or talked to you! I was in a co ed college during my under grad years and I think I transitioned very well into a co ed post graduate institute unlike some of the my female classmates who had done their under grad in exclusive girls colleges.. Many of them behaved like they were on the “Gold coast” when they joined their MA program. Those in the hostel went even crazier!

I cannot understand the fear that parents have of interaction with the opposite sex. It is the most normal thing that after a certain age girls and boys would be interested in each other. The article that I had quoted above also mentions about how one of the parents of a school in Chennai, made a big hue and cry when he found that some of the boys of his daughter’s class had made what he termed “lewd” remarks  on some of his daughter’s photos. I think the more practical thing would have been to advise his daughter to learn how to deal with such comments. After all life for a girl or a woman  is full of people passing lewd remarks- over the years we learn how to deal with it.

I must say with pride that my parents always encouraged us ( both me and my sister ) to bring all our classmates- both girls and boys home. There was never any restriction about not talking to any boy. Whenever I told my parents that a group of our classmates were going out for a movie together my father’s  automatic remark would be    “ Hope you girls are not going all alone. Take some boys with you”. We never tied rakhis to any of these guys- they continue to be my good friends even today . My husband knows them and I am really close to some of their wives. Now, I am wondering how things would have been had my parents been different!

But coming back to these restriction, I must share the case of  an engineering college in the outskirts of Chennai which prevents boy students from talking to the girls. If   they do then they are fined. The bus that takes them to and from college has a physical barrier separating the girls’section from the boys’s section. When I hear about all this, I wonder if we are living in the middle ages. We  have no business to comment about restrictive practices in the middle east when a so called metro city like Chennai has a college like this!

 Somewhere along the way our generation is regressing. I think a lot of our parents were more open about many things than we are. Let us not give excuses about how there are more bad influences on TV and cinema today. If we guide our children well, they are going to indulge in any of this! We need to be proactive encouraging our children to talk to us about issues that are bothering them and seek answers from responsible older people like us. If we start saying “Don’t”, “No “ to all these things then we are only encouraging a double life. One in which they say “Yes mummy” “Ok daddy” and behind our backs run wild! Would we like that?  As a mother I can say that I wouldn’t!


  1. The teachers snooping through fake IDs is bad and reprehensible.But I would not say that parents should not keep an eye on the net activities of the children.As you rightly laid down some ground rules for having a FB account, some control and guidance would not be amiss until the kids come of age and are mature enough.There are innumerable cases of kids coming to grief where parents have been indifferent.While too much of control is regressive,too little supervision is risky.A golden mean is what is suggested for the parents keeping in mind the traits of each child in mind.

  2. Another insightful post Meera!

    I have also been a friend of my own children and many of their friends on FB. In addition to a lot of teenaged banter, there is so much maturity and candid expression in their exchanges knowing very well my real identity and that's what makes the interaction lively and interesting. There is very little inhibition in their expressions.

    I agree with you that the standing rule is not to accept any friend request from someone you don't know.

    Whoever thought of spying on children using FB needs to have his/her head examined. In my own co-ed school going days, the only restriction was not to go into the washroom of the opposite sex and I belong to the previous generation. Are we moving backwards?

    When will today's adults grow up?

  3. While children need freedom, I feel there should be reasonable restrictions. What is reasonable and what is unreasonable will differ from family to family.

  4. Really astonishing. Besides what gives a school or college the right to interfere with their students' online lives? This is bizarre.

  5. Thats bad .. Invasion of privacy that is ..
    I would sue them for sure ..

    you are right my parents were more open then some parents i see now , but then that could be because of the change in dangers around , yet I do feel we are moving backwards ...

    I doubt if my parents ever asked me what i did or who i am with the only thing was they wanted me home by night and cut off time was 9pm .. of i was to be late I would have to ask for permission..

    I studied in co-ed school and then college too and as you say its healthy , yes we do have silly things going on but then that is how we learn things ..

    I dont know what the world is coming to..


  6. Thank god, my sons studied in a co-ed school and they are very comfortable with their opposite sex. All of them are in face book and I am a friend of them too! I am a friend to my nieces too! I like reading their playful dialogues!

    I am not able to believe that the Chennai school interfered with the personal life of their students. This is 'interference', 100%. The superiors in the school are immature.

    Interesting post, Meera! First time here. Partha Sir recommended you!

  7. ....am on the fence on this one meera, in a way, it is good but the principal calling them out is not proper,,instead they should had been continuously observed and find a way of advising them without blowing their cover....now, the kids would go anonymous or out smart them faster than they think!

  8. Monitoring kids with fake IDs is really something not at all justified....i do agree that parents should be watchful on the online activities of their kids but it must be in healthy environment....
    Nice Post.

  9. excellent post
    its great to know about your bonding ,friendship and trust with your daughter.

  10. Thank you all for your kind comments. I would like to welcome Sandhya, Mitesh, and Hariharan to this site.
    @ Ibhade, I am not sure that we should use fake ids or any kind of deciet to spy on kids. If we use deciet they will use it too!
    @sandhya, Chennai is the most "screwed up" place when it comes to imposition of parental restrictions!
    I think that what is important ( and I am glad that all of you feel that way too) is that while we need to educate our children about the perils of internet we can encourage them use it with caution.

  11. great post...there is a lot to learn from it...specially for young parents...

  12. Namaste....
    The more control they try to assert the less control they will truly have as the children will get more creative in order to exercise their freedom to simply be. Sometimes parents can be fear mongers and that fear will and can motivate them into doing ugly thing, this example is case and point.

    Parents hope to find out if their children are engaged in sexual relations through these means when it can be and at times are happen right beneath their noses, they need not look so far as to social networks.

    you are correct in your assessment of the importance of gender relations in terms of Communication between gender. It is indeed important as young girls, boys, men, women have to learn how to speak to each other respectfully, in the same language, tone and delivery as they live in the same world accessing the same resources. It helps build character and sharpened their skills in assessing problematic social behavior, things that they may need to avoid in order to protect their selves and their loved ones.

    great post...
    Thank you always for stopping by, your insight is always welcomed.

    Have a blessed day

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  14. It is not different from the case when employees go on critcizing their company and their boss on public sites and blogging sites and later have to repay for that.
    i think this all has something to do with the highly prevalent insecurity in our society.

  15. Parents shouldn't forcefully impose their views on their children. It impedes the entire growing up process. Click here to know how Rajni brought up his children http://bit.ly/n9GwsR

  16. Again, your article is interesting, insightful and thought provoking. I too have parents who always welcomed my friends home, whether male or female. If a boy phoned me or a girl phoned me, my parents didn't discriminate or immediately think it is a call that is not appropriate. They knew all my friends, male and female, and had an open mind about communication with both. I think that confidence and trust gave me a better ability to put across ideas professionally and relate effectively in my workplace without any hesitation or worries about how to communicate to a male/female.

    At least for the sake of their future, parents should give their children the confidence to communicate without restrictions and fines hanging like swords above their heads. Some rules can be set to regulate or monitor these interactions, if required but these are not necessary if you believe that your child has a strong, moral foundation and enough confidence to handle any conflicts that arise in relationships.

  17. Parents must really have direct communication and interaction with their children. It's fairly okay to enforce such rules and regulations that would limit them from doing unwanted behavior. Restriction to children is of course a must, but it's on the other hand must be put accordingly.

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