Bhuvana Sarma is a worried mother of two teenagers living in the capital of the country. The cause of her worry is that both her teenage children (one boy, 15 and one girl, 18) who treat their computers and their cellphones as extensions of themselves. Her worries are aggravated when she finds them checking their cellphones even while she’s trying to talk to them. “They have this incessant need to stay connected with their friends. So much so that even at the dinner table, they eat with one hand and text with the other,” she laments.
It is not just the cellphone. Facebook, Twitter and every other form of social networking and online chatting are her enemies too. When it is not one, it is the other. Are our teenagers too connected? Delhi based Dr. Arpanaa Kumar thinks that they are. “At that age, a child will do whatever seems to be ‘cool’”, she says, “So much so, that many urban parents feel like they don’t get to see their children enough, far less talk to them.” A study quoted in related online articles conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that there has been a drastic increase in teenagers who are using cellphones, social networking sites and other forms of media and communication. And it goes without saying that more and more parents are increasingly worrying about it.
Dr. Kumar advices worried parents to become stricter and more tech savvy themselves. “If you want to communicate with your children, you must learn to communicate through their channels,” she insists. She advises parents to learn how to sms like their children. Use their lingo, she advises. Talk to them about how and when to use cellphones and computers. Explain to them that it is vital that they keep away from their cellphones during mealtimes and other important family events. Discuss the rules with them, and come up with mutually agreeable rules.
It is only when the parents become constructive in their interference that children will learn to use technology respectfully, and not get overly dependent on it.