The cyber snare or the technology threat disturbingly appears to loom large over our horizon. One lament that frequently finds expression, dating back from the age of Plato, is that the youth of today disobeys, disrespects, ignores the law, riots in public places, is wildly passionate, has decaying morals and corroding values. It is argued that today’s youth are reckless and impatient about restraints. Is the future really as bleak as it is made to appear? Why is the young generation so worrisome?
One can explain it to the free flowing neuro chemistry in their hormones. Or to the development of the human brain which processes visual development, a sense of identity and ability to respond emotionally before emotional regulation, critical thinking, problem solving, consideration of consequences and planning for the future But certainly there is more to it.
The development of the brain is slower in children in the digital era and the average age of puberty is 8 to 11 years. They are exposed to all these functions online but the part of the brain that renders emotional guidance is not yet operational. Added to this is the almost unreal expectation of ‘A’ grades in academics, a host of extracurricular activities and weeks of standardised testing!
Today’s teenagers, invariably, have a smart phone in their pockets, have access and is addicted to the myriad ways to upload videos in seconds, thereby accelerating the process of anxiety, depression and desperation. Most teenagers manifest symptoms like poor eating habits, obesity, loneliness, aggression, attention problems and alarmingly become victims or perpetrators of cyber bullying, substance abuse, inappropriate relationships, sometimes fatally. They are stressed, bored and incapable of finding joy in everyday life and work.
As an educator and intimately concerned with issues of teenagers, let me put forward a few of my thoughts towards finding a solution.
Technology can certainly enhance creativity and communication. It is an aid for collaboration and critical thinking. Children are known to make videos advocating social and environmental concerns or developing apps to address complicated health concerns. How then can one argue against technology? Unfortunately a large slice of today’s adults including parents and teachers use technology solely for entertainment. Children blindly ape them and sadly believe that technology is a tool for indulgence and entertainment, losing out on the sheer joy of outdoor games and creativity and steadily falling a prey to the cyber snares.
Their silent scream for help goes unheard in the din and maze of activities that keep us insensitively engrossed.
As parents and teachers we need to accept that the responsibility lies with us. We must be the adult mentors and give them the guidance they crave for. These lovable assets, with brains yet to develop fully, are flexible, optimistic, bold and ready to experiment to contribute to save the world and make it cleaner, better and greener. They need someone who understands, who is willing to take time off to mentor them, who can help them engage in scientific inquiry, guide them to judiciously use an app, how to pursue a topic that is truly important and relevant. Someone who will give them opportunities to think how they would solve the world’s greatest problems.
Parents! Wake up, for your children need you more than ever before.
Strike a technology- life balance.
Put down the cell phone.
Shut the computer down.
Talk to your kids one on one.
Show them what it means to disconnect with the virtual world and to connect with real family and friends.
Mentor them to use technology to engage in creative and literary learning and explore their high order thinking skills.
Give them the opportunities and experiences they need to flourish.
Step up and learn together with your kids.
They have tremendous strength and potential and the tools in spite of being impulsive and oftentimes brash. They are reservoirs of a never ending capacity to love, cherish and forgive. We need to show them that we care; we understand and above all trust them to scale great heights.
And believe me, we will see them grow as happy individuals with brains that will amaze us and help make the earth a haven of bliss and beauty.
Pushpa R Menon