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Incidents Of Flashing Become A Grim Reality Of The Virtual World

The boom of video conferencing applications like zoom. There have been several such reports between February 15 and March 2 during e-coding lectures. Participants are generally asked to provide their mobile numbers and email address to enter the online classroom of coding. As there were many such incidents of flashing the instructors involved in the lectures began considering a complete closure of the online classes. The most recent report of such an incident comes in the form of a case, lodged at Sakinaka police station in Mumbai, and which led to further investigation.


Mumbai Police detained a 15-year-old boy for allegedly flashing his private parts at a teacher in the middle of an online class. The police reported that the minor boy had joined the classes by logging in through a fake email address and number.

The police further explained that the minor was a repeat offender and had flashed himself in front of the teacher on multiple occasions while she was taking online classes for the tenth standard between February 15 and March 2.


Using technical surveillance, the investigation team tracked down the location of the accused to Rajasthan. Following this, the law enforcement team was sent off, to Rajasthan last month. Following several unsuccessful attempts, the team finally managed to track the address of the suspect. However, on reaching the spot, they found out that he had shifted to another place. 


It was extremely challenging to trace the accused due to the scarcity of leads even after reaching the location. Except for the background caught in the screenshot. While the investigators were tracking the accused in Rajasthan, another flashing incident was reported on May 30 exposing the suspect’s location, who was tracked in Jaisalmer. Subsequently, the fifteen-year-old boy was detained by the Mumbai Police.


"On examining his laptop, we found that he had taken measures to guard its IP address against getting tracked... The boy was careful to never show his face on screen but, on one occasion, he had been trying to hide from the camera when the instructor managed to click a screenshot of his background. This image helped us in the probe,” a report quoted the police officer. 



“When we asked him, why did you flash your private parts during online classes, the minor told us he did it for fun,” said an investigator.


Two of the victims, of the incident, are female instructors from Mumbai Maharashtra, while others are residents from different parts of the country. The teenager accused faced a hearing in children's court and was sent to an observation home. The boy was booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and Information Technology Act.


Such incidents have been witnessed all over the world. For instance, such an incident was reported by Benjamin, involved in a call after an event of virtual storytelling for children in collaboration with a bookstore in Princeton, which focused on presumed Zoombombing (interruption of calls by uninvited users) attack. Benjamin mentioned that she was reading a children’s book, "Walter the Farting Dog" to a group of about 42 participants, out of nowhere, somebody shared an image of “a chubby white guy in a thong with his genitals bulging.” Benjamin also said the same user continued by mentioning the N-word several times, “so we knew it was a targeted, malicious thing.”


Benjamin held Zoom has responsibility for changing the default setting to disallow screen sharing by meeting participants unless allowed by the host.

“In the pre-virus era, I believe Zoom, was mostly used in smaller groups within institutions,” she elaborated. “Now that people are using it to sort of engendering this broader sociality and connection beyond their immediate networks and beyond their immediate colleagues, I think Zoom has to adapt."


The question however remains, what are the societal changes that have occurred in the last few years that have normalized such acts in the minds of children? Teenagers these days frequently get access to technology and, are growing up in a culture of celebrating and normalizing body flaunting and sexting which is so frequent and easy that it's considered unremarkable or even 'cool' or 'desirable'. 


An ARP article recently claimed that “Sexting Not Just For Kids,” reported approvingly on the practice for older people, too. Several magazines and social media outlets today showcase tips on safety while sexting. It must be noted, that when done with mutual consent, sexting isn't wrong. However, India is a country that majorly lacking proper sex education classes that should ideally be a part of the curriculum taught to teenagers in school. With the widespread, and easy access and exposure to the internet teens, today are neck-deep into highly sexualized messages and internet pornography. 


Though not directly related to each other one, can ponder over the possibility of a cause-effect relationship between internet pornography, sexting, body image, and normalization of flashing. The unrealistic expectations set by these aspects of the virtual world, are open to interpretation to teenagers in most conservative areas of the country.

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