Parents normally face endless challenges raising children. Over eons, they are handling these challenges with great relish. But it is going to be very difficult job for parents to rise to the prevailing awful challenges. Children are faced with many unprecedented crises. From coronavirus to climate change, and to overreliance on technology, they have witnessed a string of disasters. And these disasters seem endless, propagating without respite from the sufferings.
Coronavirus disease can now be considered as a crisis and it is dominating the world. As a consequence, all our educational institutes remain closed since March 17, 2020 in an attempt to contain the spread of this pandemic. Children are in a cloud of uncertainty from then on. The creature is leaving its muddy footprints in education arena, thereby hampering the continuity of learning from traditional Pedagogy.In the early months of the pandemic, children were assumed insignificant carriers of the coronavirus. But time and further research have falsified the assumption by the evidence that children are quite capable of carrying the coronavirus and are more contagious than previously realized. Since the coronavirus is spreading farther and faster, nobody knows when the schools will reopen. Parents cannot tell children when they will be in the classroom again, when they will be able to hug their struggling peers or use the swings or go down a slide on the playground. This uncertainty is creating a feeling of despair, anxiety and depression, and general helplessness among the children, which can destroy their potential and can finally hinder their normal growth.
The current environmental crises are global warming, ozone depletion, scarcity of freshwater, raw material and land availability. Greenland’s ice sheet is melting seven times faster than in the 1990s. One fourth of the world’s population is at risk of water supply problems. Our planet has already experienced the five warmest years ever recorded since 2010. Swedish child environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s statement, ‘I want to feel safe. How can I feel safe when I know we are in the greatest crisis in human history?’ suggests that all these ominous signs are looming large in the tender minds of our children.
For many years, scientists, environmentalist, climate activists and academics have been addressing the human-induced climate change and advocating for slowing down greenhouse gases emissions to leave our planet livable for the next generations. But the world leaders have failed to slow down the carbon emission. In 2019, Australia and Amazon forest saw the worst bushfire recorded in decades. Many were deeply shocked looking at the images that fire is roasting kangaroos with their babies in the pouch.
Greta’s utterance, ‘You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.’ at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 was like getting some of children’s worries off their chests. These statements can be seen as children’s responses to the income inequality and climate change. Thus, they are getting involved and demanding that the adults around them change things for the better. Parent’s stories on normal and predictable climate of bygone days seem now fairy tales to children amidst the prevailing extreme weather ramp up across the globe.
Technology influences our everyday life.As we walk into any office today, we find most employees sitting before a computer screen.Three fourths of jobs now require computer use. And most of the desirable positions are heavy screen time professions. This pandemic has disrupted workplaces, forcing organisations around the world to shift to remote working by engaging more technologies. People are now working from home, holding digital conferences, and placing online orders. Most of the meetings now take place on Skype or Zoom. We are now fond of using extensive screen time.
Parallelly, our children are doing online classes. Their habit of using computer simply mirrors ours and is being reinforced by the pandemic. They are spending many hours each day staring at a screen. Because of pandemic, online education has become the mainstay in academia and desperately assumed the leading role. And it has forced parents worldwide to allow their children to use smart phones, laptops and various social media applications.But anxiety is on the rise among parents everywhere. They are worried about unethical use of these devices by children. Parents often complain that their children seem isolated. Children’s untimely overreliance on technology is giving birth of a “me” “me” “me” generation. Children are entering en masse into the flow of video games and social media. Smartphones have become a lifeline to them. Now “gaming disorder” is being included in the disease list. Often reactive parentstry to limit offspring’s screen time by taking away their phones. As a consequence, they sometimes discover their children as dishonest teens, resorting to sneaky behaviour to get their phones back.
Because of pandemic, now kids are not allowed to spend more time outside. Therefore, they spend more time indoors. Some parents buy their kids a new iPad, borrow their phone, or let children use computer screen for extra time. Parents resort to technology with a belief that it will help them inculcate good behaviour into children and maintain their normal life. Parents often find children’s association with technology addictive.
Additionally, incessant news on political turmoil across the world, immoral and unethical practices across communities keep our children stressed and anxious. The extremely-touching words of a three-year-old Syrian boy, ‘I'm gonna tell God everything’, minutes before he left the world certainly resounds in an immaculate heart. Children are experiencing parents’ income inequality, unemployment, inability to meet their demands, and above all, pandemic-induced economic crisis. The pressure on parents to create a successful human presently can feel crippling. Parents might wonder if their children will be defined by the seemingly nonstop crises around them. What will these children have in store for them when they reach adulthood? More pandemics? Increased climate change? Overreliance on technology?
The author is Assistant Professor, Institute of Appropriate Technology, BUET. He can be reached at [email protected]