Digital divide

Published On: August 6, 2016 12:25 AM NPT By: Durga Gautam

Our obsession with smart phones, tablets, internet, emails, and other social media apps has distanced us from our children further away
Many parents complain that their children are not responsible enough. They are self-centered and don’t listen to them. They want freedom. Some parents even say that their children are hostile to them. Children respond by saying their parents are not considerate enough. They are always vindictive and unnecessarily strict. They say parents never understand them, and are rarely loving and cooperative. This has resulted into an unwanted conflict in the families, with both parents and children involved in unsolicited blame games. This is leading to an ever-widening generation gap. It is more conspicuous in urban settings than in the rural areas.

Owing to their busy schedule, parents in industrialized world don’t have enough time for their children. Working mothers leave their infants in day-care centers and go to office. Many others hire nurses and babysitters to take care of their children while they are away for jobs or business.

Children, who grow up under institutional care or receive hired help this way, grow up to be different from those who receive family care. They don’t have an emotional attachment with their parents. Their relationship with parents is a formal one, not bound by love and affection. They don’t have a sense of responsibility towards their family either.

Many parents don’t spend time with their children even when they are free. On weekends and vacations, children expect their parents to be around them.  They want them to listen to and show interest in what they want to share with their parents.  They don’t want their parents to do big things for them. They have some little demands, as simple as being taken to the cinema or fun parks for a day out so that they can have a quality time together.  But parents hardly manage this time for their children. They have their own plans and programs, and the whims of their children are just insignificant compared to their plans. When this persists, children gradually develop a negative attitude towards their parents.  They feel a lack of love and care and feel that they have been neglected. This ultimately leads to a situation where children begin to distance themselves from their parents.

 Even in mornings and evenings, some parents don’t take time to care for their children. Many parents work overtime and are exhausted after work.

Some others are psychologically stressed due to their work load and inevitable pressures in their workplaces. Sometimes, they have a pressure of projects and assignments to be completed, and they have to spare extra hours at home to meet the deadlines. Even when they aren’t busy, some parents don’t bother to look after their children. They can’t entertain their mischief or don’t have the patience to answer their queries.

So, they either switch the TV onto a cartoon channel and leave the child watching it or let it play games in the cell phones. For a time being, it proves to be a good solution as it gives them a respite from having to take care of the child. The television or cell phone engages the child while parents take time to complete their work. But in the long run, it turns to be counterproductive. The child gets addicted to the gadget and begins to be hostile to the parents.

 Children who grow up with little family care tend to be reserved and hesitant. They can’t open up with their family and relatives. Many of them feel low and inferior, and thus prefer to live in isolation. They feel freer and more comfortable in the company of their friends. But while at home, they lock themselves up in their room and enjoy in the virtual world that they have created through the social networking sites. They laugh, cry, frown or do anything there to release their frustration and resentments. They avoid family functions and social gatherings. This creates a tension between them and their parents, and parents think their children are anti-social. The vicious cycle continues.

Although children are partly guilty, parents have a larger share in inviting such unwanted tensions and gaps. Lack of real communication with children and basically their tendency to take the help of gadgets in parenting their children has proved costly for them. Parents sometimes fail to understand what their children really want from them. By providing for all their monetary needs, some parents think they have done everything for their children.  But this is a misconception. What children need from their parents is time and attention.

Besides busy work schedules, our own craze for technology has further widened the gap.  Our obsession with smart phones, tablets, internet, emails, and all the social media apps has distanced us from our children further apart. We ourselves tend to live in our digital lives rather than the physical one, and sharing stuff in the social media is more important than sharing with our family and children. For instance, instead of making mealtimes fun, we keep busy with our phones, checking out latest updates from our friends and replying to chats and emails.

Therefore, rather than complaining about our children, we, as parents, ought to find ways to maintain a balance between our family and work.

Most importantly, we ought to realize that a little time communicating and listening to our children is worth more than many extra hours that we spend earning for our children.

The author teaches at Orchid International College, Gaushala, Kathmandu


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