I continue to be amazed by our precocious children. And I’m sure every generation before us has gone through the same amazement. What’s unique about our children? Nothing unique, in my opinion, just that as the rate of technological advance increases exponentially, the degree of difficulty in parenting increases exponentially as well.
I was chatting with a colleague over lunch about her kids — a 6-year old son, and a 3 year old daughter. Her son had an account on Orkut. She discussed it with him and convinced him that he was not old enough to have an Orkut account. He finally consented and they deleted his account. Her daughter wanted an account too, as her brother had one. Sure, there are Parent’s Guides to Social Networking, but in India, in many cases, the parents are not knowledgeable about how to use the Internet, whereas the kids are!
Her 6-year old son can take you anywhere in Chicago — in Midtown Madness. You name the place, he’ll drive you there. Her 3-year old daughter can drive you to Crooked Street in San Francisco in Midtown Madness 2, and shriek in joy by tumbling the car over Crooked Street.
Her son creates Powerpoint slides with ease, and is now dabbling in Excel by helping his Dad create his “weekly schedule” of play time and homework.
In the traditional heart of Pune’s Laxmi Road, a woman wearing a halter top with her bra straps visible happened to pass by. After she was gone, a 3-year old boy smiled and remarked “Sagla distay ki ticha!” (“She’s showing everything”). I remember being at least 12–13 years old before noticing such things — that’s a 10 year difference!
It is not just that children are smarter and more intelligent. That has been true throughout history. It is the access to technology that makes all the difference — it is the combination of enhanced intelligence and powerful tools like never before that is fueling the extraordinary achievements of the next generation.
It is difficult being a parent today, more difficult than it was before, because of this reason. And it is not just your own child’s security that you need to worry about. Your own child’s behavior can also affect another child’s security. Prerna writes about this delicate balance with sensitivity — where exactly do you draw the line between protectiveness to safeguard your child’s safety and freedom, so as not to stifle the child’s growth?
One of the core difficulties regarding parenting is of course, sex education. With sex education being banned in more and more states in India, this is becoming more of a parenting issue rather than an academic one. Nita points out: “it is a known fact that Indian parents neglect to do their duty when it comes to teaching their children about sex…and the consequence is that kids turn to pornography.” Paul has a thought-provoking post (NSFW) opining that it is better to allow children access to tasteful nudes that can deter them from tasteless porn.
I sought the opinion of a professional psychological counselor on this topic. She said that the right age to educate your child about sex is completely flexible and dependent on the child and the social circumstances. The education itself should, of course, be incremental and in appropriate stages. It begins with education about gender identity. Boys want to know how girls are different and vice versa. That’s where sex education begins.
From her experience as a counselor, she shared the fact that the most common question children ask is “where did I come from”. Looking at the fact that this question has made human beings build telescopes, launch satellites and planetary explorers, and write philosophical treatises, it seems this is the most fundamental, quintessential questions man has ever asked!
Related Reading: A nice, wide angle view of the Age of Consent, by Nita.
Photos: Copyrighted to me, of my daughter.
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