Monthly Archives: October 2019

Your child’s brain on technology: Social Media

– Hank Pellissier

Is your child disinterested in video games, television, and texting, but alarmingly enthralled by social media sites?

Why is social media so popular? The two primary reasons — for people of all ages — include a love of “sharing” (46 percent) and searching for “entertaining or funny” content (39 percent). Women also list “learning about ways to help others” (35 percent) and “receiving support from people in your network” (29 percent) as major excuses to log in.

These all sound like healthy reasons to use social media. Nothing to worry about, so… what are parents afraid of?

Social media, like other technology examined in this series, has the potential to provide enormous benefits or catastrophic damage to your child’s frame of mind. It’s safe in proper doses that are cautiously monitored, but it can be harmful if obsessively used with wide-open access to age-inappropriate content.

Let’s examine the scientific research to see what should be on parents’ list of things to guard against.

Social network sadness?

Can a person’s obsession with Facebook lead to depression? Quite possibly, but opinions vary. A 2013 study of 190 college students ages 18 to 23 concluded that they “did not find evidence supporting a relationship between SNS [social networking services] use and clinical depression. Counseling patients or parents regarding the risk of ‘Facebook Depression’ may be premature.” A 2012 study of 160 high school students determined that “online social networking is related to depression,” — but that additional research would be needed to determine whether or not Facebook is triggering depression.

This finding was echoed by another 2013 study in which researchers report the more time participants spent on Facebook, “the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.” The study noted that this negative effect didn’t happen from interacting with others in real life. On the surface, Facebook is an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.

Am I too fat?

An April 2014 study of 881 college women who use Facebook regularly determined that “more time spent on Facebook was associated with more negative feelings and more comparisons to the bodies of friends.” The attention to physical attributes may be even more dangerous on social media than on traditional media because participants in social media are people we know.

An earlier study reached the same conclusion, with these dismaying statistics: “32 percent of users feel sad when comparing Facebook photos of themselves to those of their friends… 37 percent feel they need to change specific parts of their body when comparing their photos to others’, and… 44 percent wish they had the same body or weight as a friend when looking at the photos.”

International cyberbully

A 2014 South Korea survey of 4,531 youths ages 11 to 14 uncovered that 9.7 percent of the children were involved in cyberbullying — either as victims (3.3 percent), perpetrators (3.4 percent), or both (3.0 percent). These rates were much higher, however, in a 2009 Finnish study of 5,516 adolescents that found 10 percent of the boys had been victims, 10 percent had bullied, and 10 percent had witnessed cyberbullying. Among the girls, the figures were slightly higher: 11 percent, 9 percent, and 16 percent, respectively.

A 2012 poll conducted by The Global Research Company Ipsos showed even higher numbers: 12 percent of parents around the world reported that their child has been cyberbullied and 26 percent reported knowing a child in their community who has experienced cyberbullying. Of those, a majority (60 percent) said the harassment occurred on social networking sites like Facebook.

Parenting in the age of technology

Are there any simple rules for monitoring a child’s technology — whether it means video games, tablets, cell phones, TV or social media? Unfortunately, there’s still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects of technology on the brain. But since technology isn’t going anywhere, parents need to think carefully about the role it plays in our children’s lives. “Every child is different, so it is difficult to draw hard-and-fast rules, but I think wise parents go for less tech use rather than more,” concludes psychologist Jane Healy, author of Failure to Connect.

In the end, it’s vital to remember that your kids are watching you. The old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t work when it comes to technology. If your face is pasted to an electronic screen most of the time, your impressionable offspring will consider that normal — and do the same. Shut off all gizmos regularly and enjoy a face-to-face conversation. Take your children outside, without digital toys, and enjoy the wind, sunshine, trees, and flowers. Growing brains need the kind of nourishment that technology — no matter how sophisticated and bewitching — can never supply.

A Hypocrite

I was walking in a park and suddenly heard a mother getting angry with her son. As I reached closer, I found the mother telling her son to act as she expects. For a moment, I thought that the child must have done something against the norms of the family values or must have shown some misbehavior. To my surprise, I found her insisting on the child to ensure he lies about their whereabouts to his aunt.


This mother, like many other mothers, wants a moral value class for her son in school because she and the other parents who share the same Whatsapp group feels that this generation is not going the right way. Please do not think I am gender-biased, and there are ample examples where fathers, too, behave the same way. 


This shows a microcosm of what goes on in our society at large.


How many times have we encountered such double standard people? You would say a thousand times. When we retrospect, our own lives, we find ourselves too guilty of the same and that too now and then. The only difference is when it is about others, we are vocal about it, but when it is about us, we say ‘Oh! This last time’. Sometimes we also become that cat who closes its eyes and thinks no one is looking at it. 


These days there is this fad of ‘inclusive society,’ ‘inclusive education’… It sounds good, very fancy but in practical life who cares. We have escalators running across the roads for old, but most of the time, not in order. We have lifts meant for physically challenged people, but all are crowding over there. Buses have pictures indicating the public to give space to ladies, and the men say why should we when ladies want equality. And so is the case in railways counters, movie halls. Something is wrong somewhere, where else it can be, if not schools. Because school is the place where the future society is taking its shape, so, the school will have to take the onus of doing things right. And this causes the birth of moral science class in schools. A period in the time table weekly to teach children about what is right and what is wrong: the class begins, and the teacher teaches children to be honest, not to lie, copying is terrible, always respect everyone, how to behave with adults, on-road, in public, empathy for physically challenged, feeling of charity for poor. The child sitting in this classroom thinks it is for some superman to be able to do all this, not for us, mere human beings, and throws the lesson outside the window, which he just received it from his teacher. Five of them probably keep it with them to check if all that works in ‘normal’ life and finds most of it is dual. Out of these five, about three get frustrated in life, frustrated because they see meaning in the lessons given to them but no doers or takers in the real experience. Seeing the sad part of being one or two decide to change the path, and maybe the last one left finds it inappropriate to exist in this world. What has a moral science class done for us?


At every step, we have given children suitable lessons. Along with these lessons, we have also provided ample wrong examples. What we preach, we don’t follow ourselves, and we never walk the talk. Children are, therefore, confused, they find us adults hypocrites, so most of them just chose to grow into a hypocrite as that is the most natural path and easily acceptable in the society and some struggle throughout their life because neither they can leave those proper lessons nor can they get fitted in norms of the society. 


What do children need is to see the right examples, need adults whom they can look up to, people who live by their values and not by the glitters of the world. But where is the laboratory to grow such adults? What a vicious circle we are in!


We want something, we say something, and we do something. Heart and mind disconnected from each other. We don’t dare to walk the path, and we remain mediocre in our whole life and create mediocre after mediocre. 


So, would you like to bring some change? How?


                                            Trisha Chakraborty, Head Senior School, Suchitra Academy

“I Ask My Kids 3 Simple Questions Every Day”

– April Marie Gott Walker

Between sports and activities, Scouts and meetings, work requirements and family obligations, it seems that the moments we have in meaningful conversations are sometimes few and far between. Gone are the days when we come home from work and talk as a family while the newborn lies peacefully on my child. Gone are the days when we gather around the living room carpet and watch a toddler scoot and grunt. We have entered a new season of life — and it is busy and packed, and intense.

In the limited amount of time where we are together, I make it a priority to ask three meaningful questions. They are quick questions, so my children have no idea the inferring that can occur or the subtle hints I can pick up on. I never make them go into detail if they don’t want to, but I’m happy to listen when they do. I will never probe for more information, but I am a master at waiting silently to see if more will come.

Let me first start with what I do not ask. I hardly ever ask about a test score, a quiz, or anything academic. As an elementary school teacher myself, I assume my child’s teacher will keep me up-to-date on anything I need to know in that realm. It isn’t that I don’t care about grades and education. It is that I am their mom. When I am at home with my children, it is my job to be their mom.

I will keep them safe. I will love them. I will meet their basic needs. But there is also more that I need to do as their mother: I need to know that they are happy. 

The three questions that I ask each of my children every day, from the 2-year-old up to the 8-year old are as follows:

Who did you play with on the playground today?
What did you talk about at lunch today?
What was the bravest thing you did today?

1. Who did you play with on the playground today?

What you can learn from asking this question:

– Are they playing at recess?
– Do they feel like they are a part of a group when friends, or are they by themselves?
– Do they consistently play with the same friends, or are they meeting new friends?
– Are they running around and getting large motor exercise, or are they doing activities that don’t expend a great deal of energy?
 Are they happy?

2. What did you talk about at lunch today?

What you can learn from asking this question:

– Are they sitting by someone?
– Are they having conversations?
– Do they smile while recounting lunch?
– If they aren’t sitting next to someone, how do they feel about that?
– Are they scared of the chaos of the lunchroom?
 Are they happy?

3. What was the bravest thing you did today?

What you can learn from asking this question:

– Did they try something new?
– Do they take risks?
– Is kindness in their bravery?
– Is compassion in their bravery?
– Are they proud of their bravery?
 Are they happy?

Being a mom has easily been the most difficult job I’ve ever had. The sleepless nights, the constant worry, the anxiety of how it will all turn out in the end. But these three questions — they serve a purpose. They let me know when we’re “on track” and when we need to redirect. They are oftentimes a starting point to a bigger conversation.


Have we not done enough?

Sometime back I was thinking of the rat race we all are are in. Its not the first time in my life that I was thinking about it.
Whenever I hear or overhear parents talking about their children with all their eyebrows up and the lines of worry on the foreheads, it reminds me of my parents and our childhood days. Ours were no different and yet quite different. No doubt there were same fears of what will happen in future but with a slightly different outlook.
Thankfully my parents were never worried about raising their two daughters. For them settling down their daughters never meant making them doctors or engineers, nor were they worried about marriage which is still a big question to answer in most of the Indian households.
My parents were liberal enough and they left it to us to decide what we wanted to do in life.
And, so, I chose to become an educator and my sister a techie.
But soon I was made to realise by the world all around me that being an educator was not good enough because we still belong to a nation where teaching can be  done by just about anyone possible. The profession remains the first choice of parents with daughters and the first choice for those who are looking for daughter in-law. Strange but true! Reason? I am sure all my readers understand that well. I was disappointed that my parents had never warned me of this mentality earlier.
The other day I was told on my face that I am lucky to be in this profession as I can give quality time to my child. Before I could answer the person, my mind was jumping from one to the other work in my ‘to do’ list and then in no time I realised that more than 80% of my to do list is filled with my profession related work. And here was the lady standing in front of me and praising my luck.
I chose to remain silent because I felt what gross mis-understanding we all have about teaching. To quote it we call it noble profession but look at the noble thought people have assumed about us.
And the children for whom we work day and night, sometimes ignoring needs of our own biological children, also do not have teaching in their list of professions they aspire for.
Whom to blame? Have we not done enough? 
The other day we colleagues were discussing this issue among us, when one of us, by qualification an MBA, says she is looked down upon because she left her lucrative job to become a school teacher. These are the same people who send their kids to school and to a school teacher, for a better future. Ironic but true!
What will bring a change in the minds of people is a question I am still struggling with. But I am very hopeful that there will be a day when things will change for better.
People don’t see hope in making their children teachers but we instill HOPE everyday tirelessly in our children to remain hopeful, hopeful for a day when things will change and this side of life will also look greener.

                                               –  Trisha Chakraborty, Head Senior School, Suchitra Academy

The Joy of Reading!

Whenever I see Murtaza, a student from Grade X, he is always reading a book- sometimes in the library, and sometimes sitting on a step outside his class. Watching him takes me back to my school days when all I did was read, read and read.

I have to credit my father for inculcating a love for reading in me.  Every Saturday, we would take a walk to the library – a neat 5 km walk.  For some reason, best known to the owner,  it was called the ‘Jai Jawan’ library.  In the beginning, the librarian would choose five books for me to read.  Gradually, I began to choose my own.  Enid Blyton’s world of Gingerbread Men, Noddy, Secret Seven, The Famous Five became mine.
I was omnivorous – reading everything from the trite to the classics.  I would lose myself in the characters. As a teenager, I fell in love with Howard Roark from ‘The Fountainhead’, the  individualistic young architect who refused to compromise with an architectural establishment unwilling to accept innovation; looked up to Atticus from ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’  who faces challenges in his profession, family, and town, but stood up for his beliefs; aimed to be a combination of a lady like Elizabeth Bennet from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and Natasha Rostova from ‘War and Peace’, who was a breath of fresh air and laughter.
I went through the Mills and Boon stage where the archetypal devastatingly handsome, wealthy, powerful, roguish and larger than life heroes took over my dreams only to come crashing down to earth where wisdom ruled and I realized the patriarchal drivel I was reading! I moved on.
The next stage was when I read to my children all the fairy tales that I had once read. Stories by Hans Christian Anderson, stories that taught of consequences, of hope and redemption, stories that brought fairies, magicians, giants, and trolls to our ordinary world, pushing our imaginations to soar with notions of “What if?”s and “What could be”s. What a joy it was to read it again and again until I tired of it (but they never did!).
The next stage was when I read what my students read. The books helped me connect with my students: I could discuss witchcraft, wizardry, Greek Mythology (courtesy of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson) with the best of them. It helped that my own children were the same age and that the books were easily accessible. Harry and Percy got me so hooked that I waited along with my students and my own children for each new volume.
Ultimately, there came a time in which I was preoccupied with a busy life and I stopped reading – I was caught up in the mundane and reading took a back seat until a colleague introduced me to academic literature. Unlike the fictional literature which I breeze through, I had to drag myself through them, but somewhere along the way liked what I was reading and nowadays, I alternate between the fictional and the nonfictional.
What is this post leading to? The point of this short ‘story’ is that as teachers and parents ourselves, we must encourage children to read and more than anything else, make time for ourselves to read too. Get lost in that world of make-believe or reality – whatever you like –  and somewhere along the way, you will appreciate language- the way words juxtapose themselves to frame a sentence which in turn will open up the imagination and whole new worlds!
                                                      – Anne Isaac, Head, Primary School, Suchitra Academy