SO THE WORLD IS GOING DIGITAL!
In the spat of the latest incident that got busted on the social, #BoysLockerRoom, it has once again got eyes turned towards the vulnerability of young children and their overexposure to social media. Aditi Misra, a senior academician, Director, Principal DPS Gurugram pours her heartfelt guidance and her thoughts on the underlying issue
“Boys Locker Room chat on objectifying women broken.”
“Girls are being trolled on Instagram and twitter”
“Child pornography on the rise”
“Inappropriate content found in smartphones of 12 -14-year-olds.”
So the world is going digital. The world as a whole, at least, the academic world is dependent entirely on the internet and online classes, but that is now. Let’s flashback, until just about two months ago where there was face to face teaching, counselling, music, dance and art was also one to one; not online as in the present scenario.
Earlier than the current phase, we have had issues of children who know no better getting into all kinds of problematic situations by entering sites and apps which make them vulnerable to cyberbullying and more. Here cyber domain begins a virtual world.
In the fast-changing virtual world, what is the role of the school? What is the part of the parents and the part of the child himself or herself?
Role of the school
Since I am an educator, let me begin with the role of the school. Most schools have a very well-articulated policy regarding online and digital footprints what that policy is. I don’t think there is a single school in the country that allows mobile phones inside the school. Some that do allow in senior classes because of reasons that children have to go for coaching classes or they don’t use the bus service, and they have to go somewhere else. In those cases, we have always asked parents to either not send a smartphone and give a simple phone which cannot have any other thing happening except messaging and receiving messages and calls. In case a smartphone is provided for any reason, it is always to be handed over to a teacher in the school and picked up after school.
Now as a school, there is very little we can do beyond this except the other very vital role that we play that is of counselling.
So as far as school goes, there is counselling, talks by the experts and Cyber Congress. For a more personalised attention, there is one-on-one counselling during circle time, peer education interaction on case to case basis.
Role of the parents
What is that the home must do? Ideally, please listen to the school and do not give a device to the child, however much of the tantrum they may throw.
Do not make the relationship with your child that of giving & take. Gifting an expensive gadget or a smartphone is not the measure of your love for your child. Handling of a smartphone requires some sensibility and maturity. The child gets the smartphone only when, as a parent, you feel he or she is ready to act responsibly and not vulnerable enough to get carried away. If not adhered to, soon there shall be an explosion. A flashy smartphone in the hands of your child is no criterion of your social success!
No material love, please!
If grandparents or one of the‘more loving’ spouse decide to give in to the pressure tactics of the child, then stay ready for the unprecedented. An open and non-judgemental conversation is needed time and again with the growing child.
How can the love of a parent be equated with what kind of a gift you give, by that token poor people don’t love their children at all because they are not able to provide expensive gifts? So please don’t get into the trap, it will spell doom later on also.
Children are smarter than you think. Lay ground rules of your child even fiddling with your smartphone at home. Children are very smart, to keep you as a parent from knowing, they offload, upload, remove the app before you can see it. That is what I call essential agreement, a necessary trust which depends solely on the kind of conversations you have and the kind of confidence you and your child share.
When do children hide?
When the children start hiding things, it is when they feel that the parents either don’t have time to listen to the whole truth or have a fear of being judged. A parent should not judge, but talk, explain and counsel and make them understand.
When we were young children, there were some ground rules laid for the older and the younger child just automatically followed them too.
Incidentally, as I see often, either rules are not made, if rules are there, parents are malleable to let child bend rules as per convenience. In such cases, there is no accountability from either side. Rules are for safety. Explain to your child the importance of good practices.
Explain to your young child why is there rule for a helmet, why does the government want you to wear a helmet? What vested interest does the government have on your head – nothing! It’s for your safety.
By that same token is your school saying not to go on Instagram and Facebook when you in class 8th or 9th and so on because you are not ready for it. Why should our children who are in the midst of an active social life seek social life on social media?
Take the bull by its horn.
Lastly, especially after an incident like what has happened recently, I think parents shouldn’t hush it up. They should speak about it, speak loud and clear.
Making a woman an object is perhaps the most hurtful feeling for any mother because she is also a woman. There could be a grandmother in the house, there could be uncles and aunts in a joint family, there could be a cousin there could be a sister so why is it okay to make fun of another woman’s body?
Where are the men?
Perhaps, I shouldn’t be saying this now, maybe I shouldn’t be writing this now but when I was looking at the comments on the Instagram leak that has happened the first several comments were only from women. Why are men not speaking up? Why are men not standing by the sides of their women and saying it is wrong, my wife, my daughter, my sister is not an object. She is a living person. Why was a movie like Kabir Singh allowed to be made and then released? Do we want that kind of a man around us? I am appalled at the nature of things children have access to, the sort of things they may unknowingly start idolizing and then obviously which is just a byproduct.
So the need of the hour is open conversations between siblings, between parents and teachers, with their students, between teachers and parents. Parents need to adhere to the call of the teacher from school. She is not making it up or imaging when she brings a point home.
Open up your minds and hearts to get to a verbal dialogue and not push things under the carpet. The reality is stark, cyber policing and right appropriate information dissemination are required not just to the child but to all stakeholder for the benefit of the child.
Parents, please understand, step out of the garb, saying that “they are children or are adolescents.” No, they are not small, if they can talk about rape, they are grown-ups. If they can write such horrible things about the female body, they need professional help. Also, regarding the incident, quick appropriate action against those who found guilty must be taken and also well communicated to all, giving out a message loud and clear so that it’s a deterrent for others. Women have heard enough, seen enough – it must stop.
About the author: Aditi Misra, a senior academician and Principal & Director DPS Gurugram. She does not mince words when she spills pearls of wisdom gained through her experience of over 30 years, dealing with students and parents.