Sunday, 2 October 2016

Is This What the World Is Coming To?

I sometimes wonder to which generation I belong. The world is moving at such a fast pace. My cousins, a mere six years younger than me, make me feel like talking about "those good ole days" when I was young and the world was more than just "different."

When I was their age, we did not have tablets and smartphones. The iPod had only just been introduced. We lived for a year without a television in our house when I was six. Video games were out of the question and honestly, we would not have been interested, either. When we did get a television, however, we kids had a fixed time limit - an hour a day - for watching what my father occasionally referred to as the "idiot box," a name which the inventor of television himself gave to his invention. As for the computer? Only to be used for half an hour a day, save when we had projects and needed it for research, making slideshow presentations, etc.

Books were my companions all day long. I would go to the local public library every other week with my mother, take an hour to select all those books which had an attractive cover page (despite being reminded of the adage, "Don't judge books by their cover"), and spend at least fifteen minutes at the checkout line, waiting till the lady would finish scanning the bar codes of thirty books so that Mom and I could start placing them in two big plastic bags and finally lug them to the car and back home.

I miss those days.

Looking around, I see a girl sitting on her scooter at seven in the morning on the corner of a street, taking a selfie and blissfully unaware of the possible risk she is undertaking while doing so. About a year ago, my mother recounted how she had almost bumped into a girl who stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to – you guessed it – take a selfie. One of my teachers previously mentioned how he has a younger brother who would enter the twelfth grade that year but all he was interested in was taking selfies.

What about my cousins whom I referred to previously? There they are, glued to the computer screens for three hours straight, playing a new video game that their parents bought for them. On top of that, there are two other new ones waiting to be played. It pains me to write such a truth so blatantly, but when you ask them if they like reading and their face scrunches up, it hits a chord. Yes, they will go outdoors to play every day. They are as active as, if not more than, the kids their age. But their free time indoors is mainly spent either messing with the tablet or their parents’ phones, watching television, or playing video games. Further, as their academic responsibilities increase, the time that they can dedicate to extracurriculars such as sports and fine arts also reduces. The burden on the average Indian school going kid is so much that it is no wonder that parents find it better to withdraw kids from sports and extracurricular activities and instead, let them "focus on their studies." The two just cannot seem to go hand in hand for a prolonged duration.

Who is responsible for all this? As Paulo Coelho mentions in the pages of his book, "Like the Flowing River," "I'm worried about tomorrow's children, with their computer games, their parents with mobile phones, ..." Despite belonging to the same generation that he refers to, I cannot help but agree. I would largely attribute this present state of "technology-dependence" to parents and society as a whole. Even if parents do make efforts to keep their children on the right track, their surroundings are bound to affect them adversely.

In spite of that, I do believe that it all begins at home. I am not a parent; I do not know how the entire parenting process works. But, as a daughter, I have seen how my parents have handled me and brought me up to be the person that I am today. And honestly, the amount of efforts that they have put in to make sure that neither I nor anyone else ruins my life and makes it something I might regret, is immense. Yes, that may imply greater controls and restrictions. But restrictions on what? Facebook? Twitter? WhatsApp? Even Instagram and Snapchat, these days. You know what? I can live with that and I am more than happy to do so.

Of course, technology, when used in the right measure and for productive purposes, is a blessing. But, what happens when children are not taught the difference between right and wrong? What happens when they are encouraged to pick out their favorite video games from a store that sells pirated copies instead of being prodded to pick out their favorite books from the public library? What happens is this: your country gets named as having the most number of selfie-related deaths in 2015 which "accounted for about half of the selfie-related deaths globally"; you encounter numerous instances of distracted driving a day because people are busy playing Pokemon Go, and you read of innumerable cases where kids commit suicide after being victimized by cyberbullies.

Someone told me that Steve Jobs sheltered his own children from the iPhone and iPad because he believed them to be monsters. It has further been said by Walter Isaacson, the man who wrote Steve Jobs' biography, "Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner [with his wife and kids] at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things." Jobs also mentioned "limiting how much technology their kids use at home."

When a man like Steve Jobs could have been wise enough to say "No" to his children and take the risk of being rewarded with their wrath, why cannot other parents understand the innumerable times worse implications of saying "Yes"?

It is the small things that count and every small step taken can do wonders to rejuvenate a life. Introspect and ask yourself whether what you are doing is right. If, despite that, you still cannot or refuse to see where this is going, then may God bless your soul and those of the coming generation.

Written by Priyanshi Sheth
"Namaste!" from a creative, Indian soul who aims to keep herself motivated as she writes, travels, photographs, and thereby, shares her knowledge.

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