Nov 26, 2008

Lifestyle - School Children growing up too fast?

Charu Amar

Life was all rosy for 13-year-old Chitra studying in a reputed school in Mumbai until she laid eyes on a magazine brought in by her senior School kids: Living life in the fast lane (Getty Images)
school-mate Aman who was 15-years-old.

Excited and titilated by the explicit visual content - she soon developed a habit to drool over the magazine with her school friend on a daily basis. In no time, this habit took a physical turn and one fine day the two youngsters decided to experiment with sex out of sheer curiosity. Tragey struck as Chitra got pregnant at the age of 13 and Aman could never come out of the guilt.

This real-life instance shared by the principal of a reputed school from Mumbai on conditions of anonymity reveals the grave side effects associated with young school children indulging in reading pornography. Be it the curiosity to watch porn, getting a taste of alcohol or enjoying the ecstasy of drugs – modern school kids are choosing to live life in the fast unaware of the speed breakers and dead ends that lie ahead.

Dr. Samir Parikh, chief psychiatrist, Max Healthcare, who recently conducted a survey in Delhi reveals, "26 percent of the boys surveyed fell in the moderate category and 21 percent fell in the high category when it came to talks about visiting porn sites, being a common conversation in schools. Among girls, 24 percent fell in the moderate category and 5 percent in the high category."

Though figures of drug addiction in schools were comparatively lower, but it was quite prominent as these young party animals often hit night clubs and pubs to enjoy themselves.

Moving away from the national Capital the scene was equally disappointing in other parts of the country as well. Pramod Sharma, Principal of Mayo College, Ajmer reveals, "Being a residential school, Internet access is quite controlled and well monitored at our institution. Also, we have installed special software which blocks certain sites, but still on a number of occasions we have found kids receiving porn stuff on their E-mails."

Ritu Nanda, a clinical psychologist and counselor, D.A.V Public School, Bhopal, narrates a different saga of addiction, which is governed by the availability of addictive. "Fortunately, we have not received any complaints of drug addiction, but instances of alcohol addiction have come to our notice, since it is easily available in comparison to drugs."

Taking the availability clause further, Ritu adds, "The main aim of school kids is to experience a feeling of high and if they do not get access to drugs and alcohol, a lot of them resort to other readily available options like inhaling petrol and even thinner, which they get along with the white corrective fluid or in the form of nail polish remover. When inhaled in abundance, fumes from petrol or the thinner leaves them hallucinating and in a state of ecstasy."

Usha Reddy, principal, Meridian School, Hyderabad shares some confessions made by adolescent kids in a 'Closed Box Session', which is an adolescent counseling session that is held in the school. "One of the kids said, 'I have done it thrice with my friend and now I can't study for my exams". Another one who came for help expressed his guilt saying, "I am bad as I watch bad things on my computer, I don't want to see them, but I cannot control my urges," reveals Usha.

The biggest shock comes from the fact revelation that these honest confessions were from kids who were all under 15 years of age. And the fact that some of them couldn't even put their actions into words was enough to reveal their maturity levels.

Even kids studying in government schools are displaying promiscuous behavior. On conditions of anonymity, a teacher from a Delhi-based girl's government school reveals, "It was a shock to find a girl showing a sleazy MMS to her friends, especially when we knew that her parents barely managed a square meal a day for their family. On enquiring we got to know that it was gifted to her by her boyfriend. Not just this, girls as young as 11 and 12 proudly boast about their boyfriends to their classmates."

The reasons for this forward behaviour in school children experts say can be blamed on an easy access to technology like mobile phones as well as School kids: Living life in the fast lane (Getty Images)
the Internet being readily used mainly to complete school projects, untapped access and lack of control over children’s' Internet-habits by their busy parents.

Also, excess exposure to an overwhelming party culture and availability of easy money opens the door for many bad habits. "They want to try something new, cool and happening and unfortunately these addictions act as magnet to their wants. Then comes peer pressure and the need of social recognition combined with little knowledge that ends up proving dangerous for them," explains Ritu.

Meghna Manchanda, mother to a 12-year-old Samir says, "My husband and I are not at all Internet savvy. Even for our requirements we depend upon our son. On one such day when he was opening a site many pornographic pictures started popping up and on being asking, my son told us that he has become an online member to one such site. Though we couldn't stop him from using the Internet, after that they we as parents became extra vigilant."

Experts tag such promiscuous behaviour as the 'Gang-age', when doing everything in groups and gangs is considered uber cool!

Usha explains, "More than displaying a cool quotient, it is about creating a comfort zone of their own. When one child goes to a porn site accidentally or intentionally, mixed feelings of excitement and guilt start groping their mind. Excitement makes them visit the sites again, while the feeling of guilt makes them spill the beans in their peer group proving that 'it's not just me but every one who's indulging in the same behaviour."

In today's scenario, trying to shield a child from such addictions seems absolutely impossible to many parents. So what's the way to help them to keep off the porn addiction?

1. The right way is to counsel your child well in advance so that there's a proper time for everything and getting into such habits in their age will only defocus them, “advises Reddy.

2. Most children maintain these habits in seclusion which bears testimony to the constant guilt that grows inside them. So inculcate a habit in them of not doing anything in the world that they feel ashamed of telling their parents. Open the doors of communication. "Yelling, scolding and public insult can spoil things further, instead counsel them by telling them the pros and cons of every little step they take in their life," advises Reddy.

3. "Cutting upon their pocket money is not the solution. Instead develop a mutual trust between you and your kid. Make him spend the pocket money as he likes and in return he should give you an account of every single rupee he's splurged," suggests Veena Venugopal, vice principal, Abhayasa Residential Pub School.

4. Keeping a constant check on kids is nearly impossible for parents in a modern context. But they should ensure that the computer is in a common room rather than in kids' room. Also, the time of accessing the Internet should be fixed and surprise visits into the room must be maintained so that the youngster is not indulging in net surfing without the fear of supervision.

5. Software that can bar certain sites (containing adult content) can also be installed on machines at home as well as in schools.

The influences that work on a young mind in today's modern context is not easy to monitor, but being cautious as parents helps to keep your child safe from harm.

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