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How to Advise Children in a Digital World

22 years ago we had no option but BBC to get the latest on Indira Gandhi’s assasination, inspite of having Doordarshan the then incumbent government controlled national TV channel and number of local radio stations. We were victims or beneficiaries of information scarcity, often stale by a number of days. We had wired phones with no screens, those who had one considered themselves lucky. TVs mainly black and white till 1982 and one channel to watch. Short wave radio the only option to keep in touch with the latest in rest of the world. Computers existed only in the form of main frames with probably the fortune 10 enterprise and premier education and research institutes of the country. Newspapers were widely available and read, magazines mostly subscribed from a corner libaray. It was very easy to advice children what to watch, what to read and what to listen. Today the opposite is almost true, children are exposed to 100+ channels, access the internet using a PC, use the TV or PC for playing games, use a personal cell phone to stay in touch with friends 24*7. Cameras are now integrated into phones complicating the situation even more. There have been a number of incidents in the past couple of weeks, MMS clips of teenage friends having oral sex being MMSed across the country, 17 year old Miss Jammu claims she was forced into having sex which was filmed and distributed across the country in excahnge for a role in Hindi movies, a common practice confirmed by friends in this glamorous industry. If you do not have children consider yourself lucky. I have two children a girl 5 years old and a son 3 years old. We have a TV not connected to the 100 channels but a choice of over 100 DVDs, a PC connected to narrowband internet. I shudder at questions coming my way, the ones our parents did not have to deal with. The question remains, what do I tell them ? How do I guide them ? And and as they grow older how do I guide them to make the right decision in this world overloaded with data. This new world will constantly pump all kinds of information from simple messages to pornagraphic MMSes of their friends etc etc. The article below is a good starting point. Rama Bijapurkar (via Indian Express) advises her teenage daughter on a way to go about in a text message that can sent via a sms.

A mother sends a text message to her child: Save your tomorrows, for your sake and for all our sakes The fog’s thick with chatter on MMS sex clip, CEO’s arrest, holes in our I-T law. Rama Bijapurkar, mother of a teen daughter and management consultant, cuts through it to answer the question that got lost: Now what do I tell my 17-yr-old son or daughter?

First of all, I will tell them that the reason I have to talk to them about this incident is that none of us parents can afford to be smug and rest securely in the thought ‘‘it can never happen to kids from homes like ours’’.

I have seen too many incidents where perfectly wonderful kids from good homes undergo momentary suspension of good sense that leads on to disaster. I think, therefore, that it is good for all of us to react to these incidents with ‘‘there but for the grace of God go I’’. It could happen to anyone, no matter how remote the possibility looks on an average day. And so you need to be vigilant enough to recognise those moments of temptation that lead to utter foolish behaviour, which can shoot your life to hell, even before it begins.

A line from someone, I forget who, which I heard from a wonderful and wise teacher: ‘‘A moment of daring which a lifetime of prudence cannot retract.’’ Watch out for those moments of daring, when your good sense shuts down. If you seize the moment and go with the flow, it will be too late. A lifetime of prudence and penance cannot retract it. The damage will have been done.

And I am sure you do not want your tomorrows to be thrown away, being branded both inside you and in the outside world as a lesser human being, a low form of life. You are old enough to have some broad vision of what kind of life you want to live. I am sure the life script that you have—no matter how hazy—includes elements of a good education, a successful career, money, friends, respectability. I am sure the script does not include expulsion from a good school, being on the wrong side of the law, graduating from a remand home, and having people whisper even 20 years later the story of your life, behind your back, loading the deck against you in life ahead.

Therefore, in the interest of your tomorrow, and your life ahead, please CEASE and DESIST. Stick to the straight and narrow. Please, for your sake. For all our sakes.

Is sex at such a young age wrong? I don’t want to get to the wrong or right, and end up being sidetracked into a typical teenager argument with you—all intellectual calisthenics, and no worldly wisdom. Let us just say that right or wrong, it is stupid.

You are not mature enough to know what it is, what it makes you feel inside (and it is not always a wonderful feeling; it can be a sleazy, disgusting, ‘‘done in’’ feeling), and how it may warp your entire personality.

As a girl, the real and dreadful consequences may seem remote, but you will forever carry a scar and live in fear that you will be either found out or judged for it by everyone who matters to you, no matter which route you take. As a boy, you may escape some of those consequences but there will be others I am sure. (I am the mother of a girl, and a woman, so I understand this side better).

Just watch the movies and serials on TV and you don’t need me to elaborate on the disastrous consequences of stupid, immature sex. There is a time and a place for everything in life. When you are older, responsible for yourself, with a responsible job, and all the ‘‘real world’’ responsibilities that come with it, experiment if you like—you will be more responsible and less stupid then, inshallah.

As they say, in life, as in movies, you always get another shot. And there will be tons of other opportunities available. So what’s the mad rush?

Now for the videotaping. Here’s where I am constrained to say, it is a matter of values. In some homes, women are treated badly, like objects, and they are fair game for unscrupulous men who have no sense of honour or fair play. As a girl, I say to you please choose the boys and later, the men you are friends with, with the first cut of the bar for qualification being that they respect women. In a real, everyday sense. Any form of bad values on this—he isn’t fit for you, no matter what else he has going for him. Respect yourself enough as a woman to say ‘No’ to this.

If you are the boy, please remember, there will be retribution if you debase a woman the way it happened—mail her pictures, enjoy the kiss and tell, treat her like a sex object.

The retribution will come, in your lifetime, because there is a God above. Finally, something a leading lawyer once told me: when the wheels of law start turning, nothing can save you. No matter who you are. And there is enough evidence around you to know that.

So please do not take chances of any kind. Do not give in to the moment of daring which even a lifetime of prudence cannot retract. Save your tomorrows. Don’t gamble them away, for a brief moment of ‘‘fun’’ today.

2 thoughts on “How to Advise Children in a Digital World”

  1. This is the biggest problem now most of the parents unable to understand how to tackle.I am not a father,still 23,but I faced the trouble when I watch T.V in presence of my nephew.
    The article was good enough but still lagging straight forward answer.I wish another article emerges on this topic with straight forward answer.

  2. I completely agree with you. We cannot however negate the digital world. This is the environment where we belong at the present. Things continue to evolve. I must say that in the realm of technology the development is rapid. So we have to learn how to live with the changes time brings us and we have to learn how to properly face certain disadvantages posed by modernization. I cannot say that the advanced commnucation we have through the internet is the root of the problem, but rather it is the way we use technology which determine the consequences. The web for example has become the best and the fastest way to communicate with people, chat with them, and meet new friends. We even now have on line dating or cyber romance. But its sad to say that in some cases, the internet is misused. Pornography and cybersex are very rampant. They are very accessible and are just a click away. But the choices we make could make the difference. To me it is just a matter of maturity and knowing the limits of using the internet. To the parents, they should be more vigilant to their kids because the minors are the most vulnerable to the massive spread of pornography and cybersex.

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