Crisscrossing through narrow alleys with loose electric cables hanging, a group of boys less than 10 years old were trying to rush through. Armed with smartphones, the boys find a doorway to huddle. Giggling, smiling, and joking, the boys fidget with their devices without even an iota of fear from the passersby. Sometimes boys pass lewd comments at each other and sometimes shout loudly as if they have won a lottery. They continue to change locations even as they remain glued to their phones. Oblivious to their activities, most of the parents remain busy with their daily chores without even once trying to find out what their wards are doing. Nobody from the Moholla bothers to check on these boys. Community elders pass by but are unmindful of a bunch of boys squatting on the alleys. The sorry state of affairs is that everyone wants to skid safe. Nobody wants to disturb the apple cart. “What ought to me,” remains the guiding principle.
Worrying signs are that the parents are unconcerned. Parents do not take the complaint in good faith and always find faults with the complainant. This attitude makes children stubborn and rude. Anyone asking them to vacate alleys invites dirty looks and harsh retorts. Gone are the days when younger people used to avoid direct eye contact with elders if they were squatting outside. Gone are the days when youth were greeting elders on roads. Gone are the days when younger people would hesitate in buying cigarettes in presence of community elders. It is not the fault of boys; parents are equally responsible. They think admitting children to schools, providing good food and good life is everything. They ignore the harsh realities of life. They ignore the surroundings. They ignore the hazardous effect of social media. They ignore the adverse impact of too much screen time. They ignore the drug peddlers who are always lurking for the prey. Doctors have been screaming at the top of their lungs for good parenting. Hardly any parent heed to their advice. Even 10-year-old addicts are reporting to hospitals. Cash and ATM cards with passwords and mobile banking are easily available with kids. Parents feel proud when their kids transact online.
A doctor at a drug de-addiction center was shocked to know that a class VIII addict used to withdraw money from ATM to buy drugs. When he prodded, the boy said his grandfather had given him the ATM card. Whenever he was falling short of money, his parents would be shelling out the money. When his parents came to know about his addiction, they took him to the hospital. By then, it was very late. He had contracted Hepatitis C as he was sharing contaminated syringes and needles. Coming back to the use of smartphones, schools too have been responsible for pushing students to this abyss. In the name of online classes, schools have been trying to shun their responsibility. Their focus is to complete the syllabus no matter the student learns or not. Most of the kids have used the online classes to play games or surf through social media. In a recent study, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has revealed that 59.2 percent of children use their smartphones for instant messaging applications including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Only 10.1 percent of children use smartphones for online learning and education.
Titled `Effects (Physical, Behavioral, and Psycho-social) of using Mobile Phones and other devices with Internet Accessibility by Children’, the study said that 30.2 percent of children of all age groups have their own smartphones. Surprisingly, 37.8 percent of 10-year-olds have a Facebook account and 24.3 percent of the same age group have an Instagram account. Another study conducted by Azim Premji University maintained that school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a complete disconnect from education for the vast majority of children or inadequate alternatives like community-based classes or poor alternatives in the form of “online education, including mobile phone-based learning.”
Titled ‘Loss of Learning during the Pandemic’, the study covered 16067 children in 1137 public schools in 44 districts across five states. It focused on the assessment of four specific abilities each in language and mathematics, across classes 2-6. These four specific abilities for each grade were chosen because these are among the abilities for all subsequent learning – across subjects – and so the loss of any one of these would have very serious consequences on all further learning. “One complete academic year has elapsed in this manner, with almost no or little curricular learning in the current class. But this is only one kind of loss of learning. Equally alarming is the widespread phenomenon of ‘forgetting’ by students of learning from the previous class – this is a regression in their curricular learning,” the study said.
The key findings of the study showed 92% of children on average have lost at least one specific language ability from the previous year across all classes and 82% of children on average have lost at least one specific mathematical ability from the previous year across all classes.
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