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Teachers' Day Contest: The Impact Of Media On Child Development In The Classroom

Below is the case study of Sam Mody (name changed) from age 0 to age 10.

Often today’s children are oblivious of things that happen around them. Why are Sam and so many children his age so detached, preoccupied, distant and disinterested in the things going on around them? The most plausible explanation is the gadgetry available to young children today.

Definitely, the ‘’New age Pacifier’’ has come to stay! Putting a gadget in a child’s hands is the only way to address tantrums, obstinacy, and stubbornness! Sam has been brought up on these pacifiers. Watching cartoon channels propped up in his cot, to keep him quiet . As he grew so did his need for anything that was electronic. He was always attracted to everyone’s mobiles, spent hours in front of the TV and played video games continuously. If the TV was switched off, all hell broke loose. Sam would yell, scream and cry inconsolably till the wretched thing was switched on again.

More often than not Sam’s mother is relieved, she can attend to all her household chores without disturbance. When he’s four his father hands him a phone of his own. Now there’s no looking back, Sam is not interested in anyone or anything. He’s got lifelong companions!

Sam now goes to school. His parents are excited. It’s his first ‘’big’’ school and they worked hard to get him admitted. But does Sam want to go to school? Oh no, he’s throwing tantrums daily for he can’t leave behind his ‘’First Loves’’ the gadgets that he’s grown up with for five years! Every day is an insufferable ordeal for his parents. When they do accomplish that, Sam sits at table playing for the last time on his I Pad while his distraught parents try to get him ready for school. Sam will not leave his toy behind and so for the sake of peace the I Pad goes along too. There are tantrums and there’s howling and finally with the assistance of the teacher Sam is brought to class. It is observed that from day one Sam is not interested in anything. He continuously asks when it’s time for him to go home and for obvious reasons.

Sam’s grades are falling. He’s a recluse and is unhappy in school. His parents are worried and seek the advice of his teachers. They advice the parents to get Sam to play games like Football or Cricket . He’s also advised to call a few friends over and play, run, skate or cycle in the compound. His parents try to follow the teachers’ advice, but it’s taking a while.

I follow Sam on his vacation to Goa. On the train journey everyone from Sam’s parents to his cousins and Sam included are ‘’constructively’’ occupied. The parents are on their laptops and all the children are on their I Pads and phones. I’m hoping Sam’s mother will take him on her lap and encourage him to look out of the window at the scenery outside. Will she engage the children in games of yore ‘’I spy with my little eye ‘’ or a much loved alphabet game or sing song? But that’s not to be, and my heart sinks.

Sam returns from his trip where he’s spent all of his waking hours on his iPad. He’s back to school and he has a birthday coming up. By gosh he’s going to be 10! Sam’s parents take a leaf from the teacher’s book and invite a few of Sam’s friends over for a Football Party. Sam’s happiness knows no bounds, his parents have gifted him a laptop. He’s browsing on it from the moment he’s up. His friends arrive and join him on the laptop. Nobody is interested in football. They’ve all brought their mobiles along and they’re all busy gaming. Alas adding insult to injury, the ‘return gifts’ are PSP’s. Much to my disdain and the children’s’ delight!

Where have the simple things in life gone? Where are the party games? Passing the parcel, four corners, a sing song session? When and where did ‘’Return Gifts’’ originate? Why are simplistic things of no value today? When did children stop playing Hide and Seek, Climbing trees, playing seven steps, running crazily after each other in Catch and Cook? Where have the games like Scrabble, Monopoly, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders gone? Guess they’ve been monopolised by the I Phone. For now you don’t need real friends when there are virtual ones!

Children like Sam are getting a feeling of being social without actually socialising at all. When friends are made without much effort, how can a society remain bonded and cohesive? Sam has started using foul language; he’s aggressive, isolated, withdrawn and self-centred.

Children like Sam are getting a feeling of being social without actually socialising at all. When friends are made without much effort, how can a society remain bonded and cohesive?

Over the years many have debated about the ill effects of letting our children watch TV or play computer games for prolonged hours. Some will argue that many TV programs or computer games are quite educational and are indeed very helpful for young minds. However experts will tell us that watching TV and allowing your child to play computer games have detrimental effects on the brains of young children. It stunts creative growth, it deadens the imagination, it’s addictive too. Some subscribe to the view that monitored hours on gadgets is not bad. However studies have shown that children may adapt what they watch on TV or play on various game channels to normalize and accept harmful behaviour. For instance in our story Sam regularly watched ‘Tom and Jerry’ which can be quite funny, however experts and parents alike have been alarmed at the violence shown by the two characters. Tom hits Jerry and Jerry strikes back and children laugh about their attempts to murder one another. Many video games that Sam grew up watching were sword fighting, armed combat, and shooting. Children grow up insensitive and feel it’s ok to hit others or spew venom as it’s found to be funny and entertaining to watch on screen.

It is important for all parents and teachers to understand that from the ages of one to four years ‘’Brain Training’’ happens and these are the crucial years when skills, preferences, personality, reasoning and creativity take shape. The exposure to gadgets of any sort at this age can negatively affect how a child’s brain will grow. At this age a child should be engaged by his parents and teachers in exploring, reading, running around, interacting, fantasy play, creating, building and the like. Reading will open the imagination and will allow the brain to visualise situations and objects but TV and social media can alter and hinder the brains advancement leaving no scope for imagination.

One may ask as to what exactly Social Media or Television does to the young mind, well in the words of Roald Dahl, ‘’It rots the senses in the head! It kills imagination dead! It clogs and clutters up the mind! It makes a child so dull and blind! He can no longer understand a fantasy, a Fairyland!

The mind is where creative and visual thinking occurs. The mind is our private space, a space where no one else can enter, and no one else can encroach, and no one but we can tread. Yes, very little in our world is left to be figured out. Very little is left to the imagination. And then we have gadgetry. What does it do to our intelligence? Gadgetry insults the intelligence! It’s as simple as that.

Back to our story, Sam and other children like him run the risk of becoming obese as they do not run, skip, play, skate ride or swim. They grow up less sociable and their parents and guardians live in constant fear of their next moves!

However it has been rightly said ‘’better late than never’’ And so Sam’s parents decided that they had to take stalk of the situation. They had to change their parenting styles and not make the same mistake all over. So the change did take a ‘U turn’ when little Rhea was born. Sam’s parents went to the hands on parenting style the one that calls for active mediation. They got wholeheartedly involved with their little girl, exposing her from day one to the old method of bringing up kids which meant Sam got involved too, playing, running, building, creating, just the old school of thought!

In conclusion it must be stated all is not bad, all is not lost, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Parent’s of all little Sam’s can find their own way out, just by changing their parenting styles! Teachers and educators too have a serious role to play in counselling and mentoring parents and children. Let’s strike a balance between the old and the new.

Change is the only constant and we are bound to see the difference if we dwell constantly on being optimistic!

About the Author:

Ms. Celia Ann Robinson: Ms. Celia Ann Robinson has been working with Campion School for the last 31 years. She has a passion for what she does and strongly believes that the exuberance, innocence and simplicity of the children with whom she interacts daily, keeps her young at heart. In her own words: "I am always busy, which is perhaps the chief reason why I am always well. I can't stay at home for even a single day. For when I am in school and amongst the children I am enjoying myself not working!"

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