Roopa Mahender, Founder & MD, WELLBEEING
Advancement in technology today has become a part of us and our lifestyle today whether we like it or not. Our homes are crammed with devices and electronic entertainment that previous generations couldn’t even dream of. Surely our children should be growing happier every year isn’t ?
It is believed that 21st century children are different from children in the past. While their IQ (Intelligent quotient) is high compared to the older generation; but their EQ (Emotion quotient) is low, being hampered with less parental time and attention, skip stages in their development.
It’s essential in childhood for the emotional stability, which largely comes from feeling cared-for and secure. “Tiny babies, who can’t feed or look after themselves, need to know someone is caring for them at all times, and are programmed to recognise and become attached to this “someone” by sight, sound, smell and so on” says our Pediatrician. As children grow older, emotional security is associated with regularity and routine, such as family meals and a familiar bedtime ritual.
Most growing children after spend majority of their day in institutional care, come back home, and often sit in front of an electronic babysitter and, as they grow older, are encouraged seeing or having TVs in their rooms, which means that even when the family is in the same house, members are splintered off from each other. Ironically, in a world where there are more ways to communicate than ever before, parents communicate less and less with their own children.
In fact, children need to learn communication skills, one of the essential element in emotional and social development, but the technology and information system are replacing the need of a verbal communication. The method used by our parents singingand talking to us as babies, was to awaken the language instinct wired deep in the human brain and provide the data through which children would learn to speak their mother tongue. If adults don’t spend time with their children, communication skillswon’t develop as they should.
Is TV, I pod, music the right substitute for this? Is sms, chat, social media are more effortless means of communication? Are these adversely affecting our value system such as ‘extending curtsey’, style of talking, respecting elders/teachers, our behaviour towards peers or fellow colleagues?
Well, there’s increasing evidence of mushrooming behavioural problems among children. Many unhappy children lie low, bottling up their emotions and misery, and the symptoms don’t become apparent until the teenage years.
There are evidence of studies which have revealed that children who watch too much television and spend hours on the internet are seen often “greedy and unhappy”. These children have the tendency to argue more with their families, have a lower opinion of their parents, and lower self-esteem than other children,” the report said.
Another area of concern is health and diet. The “obesity explosion” of present years with modern eating habits shows that society – parents, manufacturers, marketers, has probably lost sight of the importance of wholesome food in recent decades.
As far as physical activity which is most essential, we’ve confused that with over-protection, keeping children wrapped to keep them “safe”, and thus denying them essential opportunities to learn through real-life experience – instead of actually getting out of their house and breathing fresh air. Ideally, children need to play in a relaxed, unstructured way, preferably outdoors with other children and – as they grow older – away from the eyes of the adults. The need for play is built into the DNA of all higher animals. Human children develop physical control and co-ordination through running, jumping, climbing, skipping or kicking a football around. They gain first-hand experience of the world they’re going to live in by making mud-pies or messing about in a sandpit or climbing a tree. Without play also, children’s imagination and creativity is likely to be stunted, so, too, their social skills. It’s through playing with other children – without adult interference – that youngsters learn how to make friends, resolve quarrels, work collaboratively and, indeed, avoid small enemies. They also learn how to take “safe risks” and make their own judgments, thus developing independence and self-reliance.
Have we as parents somewhere lost track in our understanding of modernity? Our paranoid obsession with “health and safety” means many parents now keep their children cooped up indoors living a sedentary, screen-based existence. “Play” happens on a PlayStation, games on a GameBoy, and children often spend their day mindlessly gazing at TV. In millions of households “the screen appears to be ever-present, particularly during meal times”. This “exposes children to the pressures of very aggressive advertising”. That, in turn, creates a generation of mini-consumers who want everything they see on screen and equate happiness with materialism. “Safe” in their bedrooms, our youngsters are learning about life from the people they see on screens – pop stars, celebrities and other attention-seekers.And the message those celebrities and marketers sell is that happiness comes from being rich and famous, from ownership of the latest must have products, and a “cool” lifestyle. All these changes in children’s lifestyles are the unintended consequences of rapid social and cultural change, driven by new technology and an increasingly competitive consumer society. All these are happening in such a fast pace that we didn’t even notice them happening – but together they amount to a toxic cocktail of side-effects of “progress”.
However, now that we’ve become aware of the problem of childhood unhappiness, there’s no reason why we can’t find a solution. Since we know what’s necessary for bringing up happy, healthy, successful children, a society as advanced as ours should be able to provide it.
Lets wake up, become wiser, stop being paralysed by a combination of rapid change, uncertainty and guilt, and find new ways to provide a secure, healthy family life for their offspring. None of this is rocket science, but in terms of our nation’s future, it’s more important than rocket science. Unless, very soon, we start attending to the well-being of our children and tackle the growing problems with their mental health, the next generation may not be bright or balanced enough to keep our economy healthy and our nation together.
It’s up to us as parents – supported by our wider community, should help them towards maturity, gradually equipping them with the inner strength, skills and knowledge they need to live in a complex technological culture. When ‘I’ becomes “We” as a community, illness can change to Wellness.