Where have the kids gone? – Chawm Ganguly

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chawmRemember, how as kids we used to walk to school, but always ran back home? How it was like a room full of pent up energy, bursting out like sprinters off the starting line at the ring of the bell? How eager we used to get out of the confines of the class room and get to the play field outside? I was thinking, as I stood outside a reputed city school and watched the kids get out.

No explosion of energy here as the kids, their shoulders drooped, ambled out bearing the burden of their school bags – the empty playing ground not even attracting a cursory glance. “What is happening”, I asked my wife, Aditi Ganguly, who happens to be a child psychologist / counselor attached to a leading institution of the city. “These are different days”, she said, “the pressure to excel academically is so intense that children do not have time to hit the grounds like you people did.” Over-zealous parents are instilling in kids the fire to perform and push them just that much more towards achieving goals that we as kids were not even exposed to. That childhoods are being sacrificed on the altar of the parents ambitions being something that is conveniently overlooked. “Some parents are trying to re-live their lives through that of their children, seeking to make the children achieve what they could not in their lives” she continued, “naturally with disastrous consequences, with many a young mind snapping, unable to cope up with the constant demands of the parents.”

Being participants of the same rat race to which they subject their children, such parents seldom have time for the little ones and make up for the lack of togetherness, seek to buy out their children through expensive gifts. “Not wanting to waste the little time they have, they easily give in to the tantrums and shower the kids with toys – increasingly electronic gadgets.” Thereby, sowing the seeds of a much bigger problem.

Kids are becoming extensions of their hand-held’s and laptops, choosing to spend most of their time in the virtual world. They are obsessed, refuse to go out or interact with the real world. Their attention spans are declining and they show all the classic symptoms – being easily irritable, unwilling to make eye contact, unable to hold legible conversations beyond the first few sentences, incapable to striking real life friendships – which are not only taking a heavy toll on them mentally, but are also responsible for the deteriorating physical conditions. “Just look at the way spectacle use have gone up these days” said Aditi “and you will know what I am hinting at.”

“Unrestricted access to the net too has its pitfalls. Increasingly children are accessing content that is not suitable for their age groups and are getting exposed to people and content which is detrimental to their growth and flourishing” she said. Besides, being innocent as they are, they also run the risk of being harmed and abused.

So what is the way out? “There are no shortcuts” says Aditi. “Parents must spend quality time with the children and hand-hold them as they grow. Try and lean them away from over dependence on computers, restrict their access to the virtual world. Encourage them to take up a sport or a hobby and be more active outside as opposed to being struck to the screen.”

And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to force your kids to achieve what you couldn’t  Remember even the rat race has the option that says “I quit”. Learn the simple fact of life –it is more important to run with your child than being in a race with rats!