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Dating apps, porn sites trap students

Many school children are swiping left and right on Tinder’s dating app, even though it may not be the best place for a 13-year-old. Schools and universities are closed, so students are increasingly hooked on the virtual world, where dangers abound.

As minors create fake profiles and exchange personal information on dating sites, older students become addicted to pornography. ‘Social isolation has led to maladaptation issues, with a good percentage of them spending a great deal of time on porn sites. It is common for online dating, stalking and blackmailing to occur,’ says Antony Palackal, Professor and Head, Department of Sociology, University of Kerala, who is studying the psychological consequences of COVID-19 induced social isolation.

Having spoken with Ph.D., postgraduate and undergraduate students, he says most young people are deeply affected by the situation. The students are not just using standard dating apps, but also the LGBTIQ+ social networking sites. Mr. Palackal believes the lockdown has caused this behavioral change, since students are missing all aspects of normal campus life. ‘There are fewer opportunities for social interaction, so the digital world attracts them,’ he says.

Getting frantic calls from parents: ┬áCounselor and teachers say they have received frantic calls from parents concerned. ‘Digital dating abuse was a relatively new term to us. We had always thought teens weren’t prone to cyberbullying,’ said Anna Thomas, a teacher. Although most schools and colleges have social media policies, this has not stopped students from engaging in anonymous online behavior.

There has been a sharp increase in cybercrime since most activities now occur online. Just like online financial frauds, addiction to devices and abuse of devices have increased. ‘Cybercrime has seen an increase in the last 1.5 years,’ says Additional Director General of Police Manoj Abraham, nodal officer for Cyberdome. ‘Despite the fact that the duration of porn consumption has doubled since COVID-19, the phenomenon is not post-COVID-19. Adult websites recorded huge traffic worldwide during the pandemic, according to studies. Kerala also follows the trend’.

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Impact over time: Compulsive use of digital space can have long-term consequences, including deviant sexual behavior, say experts. Often, this can become an obsession and affect one’s mental health. ‘You can gradually wean yourself off chatting and gaming, but that doesn’t have to be the case with porn. Children often retaliate violently when parents fail to identify the problem and later try to restrict it. As a result, they become easily irritable and aggressive. However, they can be dealt with timely intervention and good parental supervision,’ says M.P Radhakrishnan, psychiatrist.

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