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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!!
This timeless quote by Charles Dickens, most certainly crafted in one of his epiphany moments, is as appealing today as ever in history of time. And time after time there are instances that keep reminding us of this adage.
Technological watchdogs, when left untamed, can prove to be wild hounds.
The recent suicide of the 14 year old boy in Andheri, is an eye opener that rocked the whole internet community. So many of us first got ruffled, then shocked, then scared, and even angry about this whole thing. We are angry and debating the vices of the medium, ie. the internet, the dark minds that create these programmes, and of course, our kids.
Truly, how do we make sense of what has happened?
How can we quietly sit around when such things are happening so close to us?
How do we deal with our own sense of loss and helplessness in being able to manage (or access) our children?
These and many such questions are staring us squarely in the eye.
When we allow ourselves to take an objective view of this whole situation, we begin to realise that it is most important to focus only on the victim and understand what made him one. The insignificant ‘others’ (internet and the curator of the challenge) are exactly that….. INSIGNIFICANT!
To begin with a few questions that need to be answered here are:
When we come to think of it, today’s children are growing in the most trying conditions. They are the most lonely creatures on this planet. Even animals honour their lifestyle inherited by birth; to be in herds or live in isolation. But our human kids who are social beings, are today living in imposed isolation. So many of us do not even understand this. We believe that these children have facilities and amenities, they go to good schools, classes, they have all the essential gadgets, sophisticated lifestyle… ‘Aur kya chahiye?’
Well, so much that they need is not to be bought or sold in shops.
They seek soulful connections. They need meaningful interactions. They need ideal role models, they need physical engagement. They need opportunities for small but true achievements. They need real world challenges. They need loving guidance. They need loving authority. They need organic parenting.
The Irony of the situation.
Most parents today are struggling through their lives trying to give the best that life has to offer, to their kids. So many heartfully feel that they want to give their kids everything that they desired as children, but did not get. It is their devoted love for their children that makes them work so hard through the day, day after day, year after year. So that they can give their child quality education, memorable trips, healthy lifestyles, boost of self-esteem, hi-tech devices, etc. If not love, then how else do you make meaning of what parents endure physically, mentally and emotionally, in order to make the money for all this. And yes, there is the margin of productive satisfaction, that educated parents are entitled to. But to a large majority it is also a means of a better standard of living. Is there anything wrong with that? Certainly not.
But when you do a 360° analysis of the situation things do look different. Lets analyse the internal and the external environment.
The impact of a current lifestyle – Internal Environment
Elderly Caretakers -
When both parents leave for work, who looks after the baby? It might be the grandparent. Today, these grandparents also need to find respite from their routines. They’ve had their share of work done. So it’s time for them to take a breather. At such times, the task of looking after a bundle of energy is quite a handful for them. They tire easily and fail to keep up to the activities of these growing children. As such, they are more than happy to surrender to the power of the medium of television, or any substitute, to engage the child. Slowly creeps in the ipad, tablets and phone.
Well, they’ve tided through the hardships of the job, the traffic, the commute and have just returned home. They surely are entitled to some relief. To assume that they have to be able to immediately attend to the demanding child is a little harsh on them too. So even they are more than happy to surrender to the power of the medium of gadgets and devices, to engage the child. And so the laptops, ipads, the tablets and phones become official options.
To assume that you will get the ideal kind, is wishful thinking. Even if you do, what are the things you can expect of them? They will cook, feed, clothe and nap your child on time. They will also feed the medicine, take the child for a stroll, accompany to the birthday party, etc. on time. But for the rest of the time they are passive supervisors who have no clue of what the growing child is doing.
But the question looming large is, ‘Is this all your child needs during his/her growing years?’
Doesn’t the deficit of a valuable company of someone who is able to enrich the soul and mind of the growing child throughout the growing years, amount to a huge loss?
The impact of a current lifestyle – External Environment
Schools too, play havoc with the mindsets of children with creating a single tracked attitude. Much of what our predecessors thought of as the role of schools to be, has been shut into cartons and thrust into the attics. Thinkers like Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Abraham Lincoln, etc. who believed that schools were accountable to create human beings of character, of convictions, and create leaders who will lead humanity, have been proved wrong. For today schools only aim to produce doctors, engineers, scientists, etc. who will feed into the show runner of society- the industry. Humanity can take a back seat for now.
What children thus comprehend today is that competition is the only truth, and winning is the only meaning of success. That anything less is no good. Competition even nibbles away at the roots of lasting friendships.
Electronic gadgets and devices are at the heart of education today. That makes these official education tools in the hands of the children. No harm there if one could truly regulate and limit the extent of its use and exposure.
We have been up surged by materialism. And we have begun to believe that there is no way out of it. Possessing expensive items supersedes possessing intrinsic qualities, and commands more ‘likes’ from society. This message is absorbed by the growing child who now seek social gratification through materialistic possessions and if this endless pit is not sufficiently filled by their overworked parents, their identities are shattered.
Conversely, let’s now look at what’s happening to the child from infancy to puberty.
The growing child during his wakeful hours, seeks rich company. He needs vocabulary enrichment, joyful responses, playful companionship, patient acceptance, endearing references, warm storytelling, rich reading, meaningful dialogue, confident guidance, reassuring encouragement, and so much more.
When you match this to the present scenario, do you see this need being met? Very little. Most of it is outsourced. Today’s child rearing has taken a lot for granted. It just assumes that the fast pace of technical, and lifestyle development has also paced up the development of the child. This idea is further propagated by external forces.
Industry loves to tell us why product X or product Y is good for our child and then dishes it out at a premium price. Our blinded (sometimes guilt ridden) love makes us believe that X or Y will take care of this certain industry hyped deficit/shortcoming in our child. And we succumb. Well maybe, all your child needed was a little more time to grow out of the situation naturally. But we feel good having dealt with the situation by having administered the prescription. After all today money is more easily accessible than time.
Unfortunately, this is the sad story of today’s neglected childhood.
In each of the above mentioned situations, we see that the child is the one who is becoming further isolated, being cut away from the loving guidance of the elders. Every stage of children’s development have different set of needs, each of which can be healthily met in human companionship. Yet today they are growing in a very cold and unfeeling environment. It’s not what we wish for them, but it is what they are experiencing from us. Where are the grandmothers telling stories, mother receiving children home with warm food, hand-stitched clothes, father's playing horseback, board games, etc.? Look closely, and you will see that even expression of love has taken on a very materialistic form.
This situation leaves room for a lot of possibilities. When we adults find refuge in this hands-free way of rearing children, we are delighted to have our space. Over time we even get used to the idea of each one doing our own thing. But the child’s natural human need for ‘idealism’, ‘hero worship’, ‘challenge’ remains unmet in the real world. This then is exactly the point of inflection where some children begin exploring unknown territories in the hidden world of the internet. The seek fulfilment of these basic human needs in wrong places.
When the childhood needs are not sufficiently met, children find it hard to find right values and answers within themselves. They don’t know what to do in moments of uncertainty. This then makes them most vulnerable when exposed to the wild virtual world.
Well, it’s time we each make sense of our own situation and find our own solution.
There is no one single formula or answer. Every home is different and every situation is unique. But the basic needs of children remain the same. Our children are our responsibility and their needs, our obligation. Let’s do the right thing at the right time.
And not wait until the blue ocean turns red.