Statistics gleaned from a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) forum survey of about 600 students in the age group of 7 to 15 years from Mumbai and Thane reveal startling facts. Internet browsing, it seems, is the most favourite pastime of 100% of the respondents and ninety-six per cent are on Face book (FB). Their favourite topics of discussion are:
Love (an euphemism for sex, transient, short-term and multiple relationships)AngerGrievancesSeventy-two per cent of the students chat with friends and 78% with strangers. This is alarming as the next step is meeting followed by intimacy. This is a high risk situation as it may lead to physical/emotional abuse, child pornography, substance use, prostitution, escort services, risky sexual behaviours, etc. Fifty-five per cent of the kids have dummy accounts as the valid age for this is 18 years.
I usually have a problem with our current predilection for labelling and diagnosis that converts natural and self-created problems into disorders with fancy names. For example, gluttony as eating disorders, developmental problems of old age in terms of memory as senile dementia, poor childrearing styles marked by a lack of discipline and structure as dyslexia, learning disabilities or conduct disorder. Yet a label I want to use for the normal population is that of "internet addiction". This is a now in the DSM (the diagnostic manual prescribed by the American Psychiatric association), the Bible of Indian mental health professionals to label individuals who have similar symptoms and treatment plans as drug, alcohol or sex addicts.
Euro-American research claims that:
An average American spends at least 8 ½ hours a day in front of a screen, andAn average American teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day, with one girl in Sacramento proudly claiming to manage an average of 10,000 messages a day for a month. Going by this, we have arrived! Some very proudly announce that their three year old knows so much more and are very bright because they know how to work around computers. An even more development that my daughter told me some time ago is the latest (before the selfie and the sex selfie) Facebook invention to get us addicted the confessions page. This means that for children who already are in a society that has seen a huge decline in parental investment, guidance and chaperonage; this could lead to further risky behaviour with sanction and the issue of guilt taken care of.
Here's what I feel:
The major part of the socialisation process, critical in making the child a functionally competent and spiritually grounded adult in society, has been outsourced to the media and is not being undertaken by the system that is supposed to do it, which is the family and the neighbourhood.The age-range of the survey is 7-15 years which is way below the stipulated age of 18 years to have a Face book account.Seventy-eight per cent of the respondents interact with strangers on the Internet- this indicates an almost desperate need for communication that one is even willing to bare oneself to strangers and make public intimate details.Children want to talk, express, discuss, articulate and communicate and most importantly be heard, this need is now fulfilled by the media, and I dare to say, this is quite dangerous to a child's wellbeing.
—The writer is an emotional intelligence certified therapist, trainer and life-coach