The guilty verdict of Dharun Ravi in the University of Rutgers Webcam spying case hit me hard.
- Room mate
- connected 24/7
Aditi my 18-year old freshman is all of this. But she is a 1ooo miles away from home and there is no end to the things I worry about. Letting my first baby to go to the US for undergrad studies was the hardest thing I have ever done. September 2011 – All of us flew down to the US to drop Aditi off at University. Many $$$, much advice and many tears later, she was in her new home and we were ready to go home to India. Our sage advice (both necessary and unwanted) revolved around the importance of regular eating habits, regular bed times, partying, some bit on boys and the ground rules for Skyping at designated times of the week.
According to published reports, Dharun Ravi, 18 set up a video camera in his dorm room and briefly filmed his gay room mate, Tyler Clementi, also 20, in a tryst with a 30 year old man he met on an internet site. A few days later, Dharun set up the webcam for a second recording and proceeded to tweet about the ‘viewing party’. The second viewing never happened because Clementi found and turned off the camera. A few days later Clementi jumped off the George Washington bridge after posting to his FB account. At that very momet, Dharun posted an apology on Clementi’s wall.
All this in the first three weeks of school!!
Of the many pieces i have read, this one from the The New Yorker struck a nerve – there does not seem to be much hate or malice on either side. Just teenage stuff with tragic consequences.
As a mom, I try to imagine every moment that that both the boys went through. Tyler – Shy, just come out, testing his independence; Dharun – the brash, tech savvy, eager to score points with his peers. I try to leave the legalese to the experts. What comes out is the mean-ness that only teenagers are capable of; that feeling of invincibility and the feeling that the internet is their oyster. I truly believe that youngsters today do and do not recognize the power of this explosive online world. ‘Kony 2012’ and ‘Tyler – Ravi’ are two extremes in this spectrum.
I know Aditi is an avid Facebooker, connected closely to her younger sister and friends she has had for much of her 18 years. I have gently pointed out the pitfalls of too much public showings and impression I want to think that she is fairly sensible about social media and friendships in general. What I was not prepared for was the realization that sensibility is not going to help in the explosive online world of personal branding which is viral and absolutely boundary-less.
I know that I have raised independent children. But nothing prepared me for these new fears that I need to confront. I am emailing Aditi articles, comments – anything that will give her bits and pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. I hope she will draw the correct thoughts from two lives irrevocably destroyed. I want her to recognize the dangers and the pitfalls of the world we live in today along with the ease and fun. But most of all, I hope she will know that her parents are there for her, always.
The hardest part of parenting is waiting – while work in progress.