Distractions in the 21st century

Based on my own teaching experience and observation of child psychology, I describe below what I consider are 3 major distractions in the process of bringing up children in the 21st century. In the current global pandemic situation and altered nature of our lives, I find these more relevant than ever.

Screen time

“It is very difficult to get my child to eat so we play cartoons on TV and it makes life easy”, said a friend to me the other day. I see that in my household too. This made me think about the long-term consequences of this action. As a physicist, a professional hazard for me is to search for the consequence of any action. Also as a child psychology enthusiast and a counselor, I think it is important to look ahead and figure out the troubled ocean we will enter with our kids when they grow with this training.

Why does a child not eat on time, sleep on time, and poop on time? The answer is simple: they eat, sleep, and poop at their time. The “on time” is a parameter we have fixed for our adult lives. So we are inducing other habits in order to make them eat or sleep at a time that is convenient for us. Now, this habit of entertaining kids with cartoons is a very dangerous practice as it develops into addiction very soon in young minds.

Yes, children get addicted to TV because parents are pushing them and TV and meals invariably get connected to each other in the child’s mind. So, I suggest parents to stop doing it. I urge parents of young children to read about Pavlov’s research. Does it seem familiar?

Storytelling, singing, hands-on play during meals are some creative ways to engage the child. They can also be used as incentives for the child to complete the eating task. A sure shot way to get a toddler to eat their food is to allow them to eat on their own. Let them eat at their own time and make a mess if need be. However, I know this is seldom practical when parents don’t have stretchable time and energy to indulge their children in this. Needless to say, the child’s paediatrician can give the most useful advice on specific meal-time challenges.

Herculean tasks

“My son goes to music on Mondays and Wednesdays, TT on Tuesdays and Thursdays, swimming on Saturdays, please engage him on Fridays with Maths and Science classes. I can bring him on Sundays too if you want” said a young lady to me about her 7-year-old. This made me think, that the child is getting trained to become Hercules and will go on a journey of life resenting his parents for killing his childhood. Sometimes I think people should not have access to results of academic research, because I have often seen people fancifully using half-baked knowledge to throw some jargon and make friends and peers believe that they are smart. Although I do believe in and advocate Multiple Intelligence theory by Howard Gardner, I do not agree that by making children do multiple things at the same time we are making them smarter than others; whatever may be the parents’ reasoning. We are only making them busy and stressing their heart to give up sooner in life. The mind has an infinite capacity to learn, over a very long time. Sometimes, I feel like screaming at some parents “For God’s sake, their abilities come with genetic limitations; so get a good look at yourselves first”. Only if you are Zeus, you can give your child “Herculean tasks”.

The Google Curse

“My children know how to operate a computer and a smartphone better than me. They know everything and are very fluent with the Internet” I overheard a lady at the ticket counter telling a friend of hers.  Some time ago a teacher told me “today, students Google everything and are not interested in the class to learn”. Let me tell you, my grandfather had difficulty understanding the TV remote and thought I was a genius. So, where does this go, and how does this end!

Every generation has different realities and just because a kid can use a tool early in life doesn’t make him/her a genius and hence assuming that would be a big mistake. Also, access to online search without supervision will sometimes lead to undesired results. Children can get exposed to materials that are not age-appropriate. Also, non-curated content could mislead the child to believe that whatever they read is right; and lead them to get into baseless arguments and discussions that are seen nowadays very frequently on social media. I call this uncontrolled access to unedited content on the internet “The Google Curse”.

Summing up

The three distractions [TV, excessive activity and the Internet] that I highlight here are very common and appear harmless as they are convenient means for parents to engage their children, but have a lasting impact on the life of the next generation. Here, one can see that the first distraction is convenience induced, the second is pride induced and the third is ignorance induced. Kids learn convenience is better than conviction, it is better to be busy than productive and it should be right because it is on the Internet.

Give serious thought to this and next time you engage your child in an attempt to keep them busy, ask yourself if the distraction is worth it.

Stay safe.

Author Disclaimer: These are my views on how distractions can have a lasting effect on the minds of kids. Any resemblance to practices followed in anyone’s household is purely coincidental. If it helped even one reader gain a perspective, then the effort was worth it.

Featured image credits: Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

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Sriraghavan S M

Sriraghavan (Raghu) is an Astronomer by qualification (MSc, Astronomy, Bangalore University) and a teacher by passion. He is a trained counsellor and psychotherapist. His firm belief and conviction to transform the education system in India led him to be an entrepreneur through NumberNagar®. His core work at NumberNagar® revolves around product presentations, academic content, and training. He teaches Maths and Science to young students, rubbing off his passion to them. He trains teachers as well, inspiring them to better themselves. He has taught Physics in educational institutes, during his early career days. He has travelled extensively all over Karnataka, training teachers and popularising Astronomy. He advocates multiple intelligence and is constantly on the lookout for new things to learn. He is ambidextrous and enjoys sketching. He was an avid cricket player in his younger days. He is an enthusiastic biker and uses long solo motorcycle rides as means of reflection and rejuvenation.

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