Oscar Wilde once said “I am not young enough to know everything”. The great author could not possibly have foreseen the events leading to the situation as it is today. With the advent of social networking and the ubiquitous reach of visual media, children and adolescents are being hastened into adulthood. There are of course a number of factors which have worked as catalysts in bringing about this change, the foremost being the fierce competition that every child has to face and overcome these days. Getting into an educational institution of repute these days is like winning some sort of a war. Ask any parent who has had to pay loads of cash or the kid who has had to have all the answers. It’s not child’s play anymore.

Brilliant is the new normal. Each child has to be overtly talented in some field or the other. He cannot afford to play around, explore his interests, find out what he likes. That job is left to the ‘experienced’ people around him. All he has to do is follow instructions. Once the poor kid is in school, he has to match up to the expectations of all around him – the teachers, his parents, his friends. Good grades and of course extra curricular activities. All he does, is trying to be what others want him to be. He never has the time to think what he wants himself. His growth path is carved by the good folks around him.

There was a time when children were allowed to be just children. School was followed by “mummy ke haath ka khana”, cartoons, cricket and then a little bit of homework. Power cuts at night implied freedom from the clutches of books and studies. The kids today, well they can’t miss what they never had – freedom. They are more aware of who they are, updated on the latest events and trends. This kind of exposure is owed mainly to television and the internet. While this is good in many ways, it can have its ill effects too. While watching television, you cannot keep them limited to the Discovery or the History channel. They are bound to be drawn to other channels too which are all too happy with their growing TRP’s showing the debauched lifestyles of the rich and the famous or sordid attempts of wannabes at getting fame. The real trouble starts when the young minds start to think that these are the people they are supposed to emulate just because they look cool and hip on television. Once this happens, even parents have little clue as to what the solution is. Another element that has had major impact on the lives of children all around the world is the internet. What kids do with their time on the web, is seldom monitored by elders. So, how that time is spent is anybody’s guess. The temptations are just too many. Add to this, the spice of social networking and online profile sharing and kids are ushered into the world of virtual reality which starts shaping their minds. Children have started to spend so much time on sites like facebook, twitter etc., that they have very little time to do the things that they should be doing at their age. The terms and phrases which have become a part of their vernacular are shocking to say the least. The question to be asked is where does the buck stop. Kids are not getting to be kids anymore. They are losing their innocence both literally and figuratively. The solution is to find a balance between educating them, preparing them for the coming challenges but at the same time giving them enough creative freedom to decide what and how they want their lives to turn out to be. They get that chance only once. Let’s make sure that it counts.

Abhishek Mandal