A few days back, I was casually chatting with my cousin sister discussing about how the pandemic is altering our life. While discussing she cited a very interesting incident which happened to her daughter, Tanaya a couple of weeks back. Tanaya is currently promoted to fifth standard and she has been attending her classes in online mode since June end. My cousin said that they have created WhatsApp group among themselves where they discuss about their ‘school-affairs’. A few days passed by, she noticed that Tanaya was feeling very low and she almost stopped communication with her fellow mates. Distressed, she questioned her if something is bothering her, since it is a very new thing for Tanaya. After a lot of pestering, she opened her unofficial WhatsApp group of their class and she says that she was shocked reading the conversation. She noticed that there were a lot of slangs for fifth standard students. The most oppressive thing that she understood was that Tanaya was completely ignored when she asks or say something, or laughed at or completely victimised her. She was so outrageous that she took the matter up to the Principal and finally after a heated discussion that volunteer parents will be a part of those group and banned the creation of any other unofficial WhatsApp groups. Upon listening, I just saluted her for what she did and how she stood up to it.
WhatsApp is the only source of communication among us right now. That is the platform where everyone, from students to professionals, converse among themselves, trying to keep up with the changing world. That said, now when we all are chatting in a public forum, we usually tend to oversee the boundaries and limitations. Students who have been programmed to attend classes in offline mode were under a lot of restrictions and discipline and so such random conversations were easily avoided. But they have started attending their classes online, where there is no restriction, no rules and especially there is no such ingrained discipline. Well, I have particularly experienced that seeing my cousin’s daughter. Considering her age, it is very well perceived that freedom of such kind in unexpected and very often, such freedom bears its own consequences. They tend to say everything, thinking that it is cool and very often they tend to exhibit groupism. At times, they say something to a particular person, out of ‘longing for acceptance’, without giving it a second thought. This is what constitutes bullying. Repeated avoidance, being laughed at or made mockery of, posting ridiculous and insulting messages as WhatsApp status, sending offensive memes or caricatures in the public groups are some forms of mental harassment in online mode, otherwise known as WhatsApp Bullying.
What I believe is that people, especially such young ones, are going through a massive change. Schools and other such institutions need to understand that just initiating classes in the online mode can make someone ‘educated’ but it will completely erode the ‘mental’ and ‘civilized’ part of our character. Parents and teacher should make them understand that everyone is feeling excluded at this hour and we should take the responsibility of making someone feel inclusive.
While leaving my cousin’s house, Tanaya came to bid me good-bye. I looked at her eyes and remembered about my past too. I smiled, and then left.