Binu Joseph Vadasserikara
Director, Excel Ministries. Conducts special training and pre-marital sessions for youth. Has been engaged in youth and children’s ministry for 19 years. Has a call to train youngsters and sunday shcool teachers. Has authored 9 books of which “Ningalkkum Sadhyamanu” is widely accepted and considered a masterpiece.
Youngsters of today are growing up in a digital world – a world of media. They grab new technologies faster than their parents.
In India, cell phones may be seen as just a medium of oral communication to most of parents, but to the children it is something beyond that. Even school going students use the internet to collect their study materials. The social media opens up new avenues to connect with whoever they want.
Until the 1990’s, the post office was the busiest place of communication, and the postman was an important person. But the children of today have never seen or used an inland or a post card for communication. The entire world, today, has become a global media village. And much can be controlled by anyone with his/her fingertips. Modern media taught the new generation to send a smiley instead of a smile. Slip of tongue gave way to slip of fingers. Communication became possible through finger tips.
Some issues that our children face
The Wikipedia defines ‘mobile phone’ as a phone that can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link while moving around in a wide geographic area. The first mobile phone was discovered in 1973, and it weighed more than 2kg. The new generation mobile phone has everything in it from banking to games. The internet access makes things simple and more private.
Children below 15 years use mobile to play video games, chat, make phone calls and browse the internet. As per law in India, only those above 18 can buy a SIM card on their name. Facebook also keeps age limit. But we know there are numerous kids who play with the cell phone and use it personally.
Science proves that the use of mobile phones in the early childhood causes brain damage and even cancer.
Children who use mobile phones absorb double the amount of radiation through their heads. Dr. Om Ghandi, a leading scientist and professor of electrical engineering at the University of Utah found that young children under 10 years of age could absorb radiation across their entire brain. He found that more radiation can go past the ear and into the head since a child’s ear is thinner and the telephone is closer to the head. All it takes is two millimeters difference.
A study that was conducted by 12 research groups in seven European countries found that in laboratory conditions radio waves from mobile phones harm body cells and damage the DNA.
Children need to understand that mobile phone is not an instrument or toy to play with. Parents can allow them to use it for some urgent calls, but not for long conversations.
Mobile with internet connection can even lead the children into the cyber world and once they are in, it is tough to bring them back. Where absolutely necessary give them a phone with no internet access.
Parents need to be constantly on the lookout for their children, their mobile phones and internet usage. Parents also need to be more careful in handling their mobile phones. Do not keep mobile phones under your pillow. Train the children to use it only for emergency.
Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘internet’ as “the large system of connected computers around the world thatallows people to share information and communicate with each other”. But in modern world, internet connects mobiles and people too. Now-a-days internet gives access to share everything people want. Even people lead family life through internetmedia.
Someone said, “People have enough time to chat and talk with friends who are far away, but they have no time to talk with those who are at home.” In one sense,internet media has widened relationships at home and brought the whole world into one’s hand. People forget to smile but have and learned to senda smiley.
Internet media opened the doors to the world. People are connected faster than computers. Media made people to believe even the unbelievable things as reality. Social media connected the hearts, and people. True, internet has led many into marriage and manyothers into divorce.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that the slogan for a lot of youth is, “Google is god”, they rush to find answers from Google rather than from God. So they conclude that they can repose a lot more trust in Google.
The reports from colleges and high schools prove that many young girls run after someone whom they met in Facebook or other social media. Some chat, unknowingly, with their own near ones, who use fake id’s
Many who are addicted to Facebook and Whatsapp groups fritter away precious time.Social media opens the door to unscrupulous people to keep numerous love affairs going on simultaneously. Some live in social media as husband and wife. Video chats arebeing more misused than used.
Many have behavioral disorders have been diagnosed due to extreme use offacebook, whatsapp and other social media. Generally it is called Internet Addiction Disorders (IAD) and Addiction to mobile phone is called as Nomo phobia the person addicted toit can be calledas Cellcoholic. Some addictions even need psychiatric treatment too.
Kids and the media is a growing concern. Even very young children in our society get a big daily dose of television, video games and music lyrics. While such media can provide education and entertainment, they can also damage children. Research shows that exposure to violent media can result in aggressive attitudes and violent behavior in some children and adolescents.
The over usage of social media can lead one to laziness, drowsiness, behavioral disorders, sleeplessness, anger, inactiveness, lack of interest and concentration in any area and specially in studies, keeping a distance from friends and dear ones.
If you feel that your child is addicted to internet or mobile phone try to control him/ her at the earliest. Keep a time schedule for using mobile phone and lay down rules help him/her to concentrate on studies. The following guidelines may help:
• Keep away from mobile or internet during night times.
• Block the sites that can be misused by the child (get the help of someone who knows it).
• Verify the sites often the child visits.
• Discourage or keep time limit for any type of internet games.
• Train the child how to use the media for good purposes.
• Once the child goes out of control seek the help of a counselor.
Video Games/ TV
Most traditional games were creative, practical and good for health. Today’s generation has restricted their games and activities to the electronic media such as computer, internet, cell phonesand IPod. Most children are addicted to video games. Even married people also continue to be addicted to video games and play stations. Some develop play stations at homes.
Most video games are destructive. Those children who play continuously will be addicted to it and it reflects all through their life. Some have cultivation, farming and planting in social media. The time they spendin the video games is just a waste of time; No one ever earned anything from the simple video games. Children need to understand the real meaning of life and that it is not a simple game.Some take it as an activity to while away their time, others do it for fun.Once kids are addicted to it they moveinto danger zones.
“Violent video games should be discouraged because they have harmful effects onchildren’s mental development. Parents should be advised to get familiar with various rating systems for video games and use this knowledge to make their decisions”.There is a relationship between watching violent television programs and an increase in violent behavior in children.
Excessive television watching contributes to the increased incidence of childhood obesity and have a deleterious effect on learning and academic performance. This can also encourage irresponsible sexual behavior.
Television is an effective way of advertising products to children of various ages. (Reports from WHO)
“Most music videos cause significant behavioral impact by desensitizing viewers to violence and making teenagers more likely to approve of premarital sex. Up to 75% of videos contain sexually explicit material, and more than half contain violence that is often committed against women. Women are portrayed frequently in a condescending manner that affects children’s attitudes about sex roles.” (Paediatr, Child Health. 2003 May-Jun)
Sites like YouTube gives a lot of materials to children and most of them are sexually explicit materials. Parents need to train the children in selecting the sites and materials.
“Today my smart phone got damaged. So I spent time talking to my family members, all are good people. I didn’t understand the girl standing in the corner, but my mom introduced her to me, that was my sister. My mummy told me that my elder brother went abroad! It was a good experience without my smart phone, tomorrow I will get it back after repairing!” (message from a young boy)
Isn’t this true of many a youngster at home?As we live in a digital world the church and parents need to be more aware of the issues and challenges we face. As true Christians, we always need to give priority to the Lord and the Word of God. Now-a-days Christ is out of church; and believers and the world have come in. Children and parents need to understand that just an unwanted ‘click’ or ‘like’ can shut their life in the jails. The cyber cell (Department of Police that handle the cyber cases) is more active than any other days. The calls, texts, chats are watched and scrutinized as never before, and saved in their server (large computer) for few years.
Facebook is a media that most people use to connect with one another. Children try to get more likes and add as many friends in their circle. Adding unknown friends and sharing blames and political issues or the messages that can humiliate others or other religion can be a solid reason for imprisonment.
‘Selfie’ is the most common word used everywhere. The selfie culture can be a destructive one and a psychological issue also.It is better to discourage such psychological symptoms. Using “selfiesticks” can be the next stage of it. Newspapers report many deaths of youngsters who lost their lives, trying to take a selfie in front of the train or in dangerous zones.
Last year, a young boy died in Kerala, when he tried to take the selfie of his own fake suicide attempt. Selfie culture highlights one’s own self can make someone more selfish and self-centered. In a selfie, its always the photographer who is highlighted.
• Make sure that media doesn’t control you and grab your valuable time.Always give priority tostudies.
• Avoid using cell phones in study hours, churches, prayer times, Bereaved homes, etc.
• Donot take anyone’s photo without their permission.
• Do not use mobile cameras without knowing the situation. (A recent newspaper reported that a 10-year boy took a selfie with his grandfather’s dead body)
• Children should not use mobile cameras in public places.
For Parents and Guardians
• Train the children to use the best of all the media.
• Help them to plan and schedule the day.
• Minimize the use of modern media -particularly in the early ages.
• It is better to use the internet and other internet media in the presence of parents.
• Do switch off the mobile phones at night. Better yet, keep the mobile with the parents after use, especially at nights. (To keep children above 13 from misusing use mobile phones for chat and calls).
• Church also needs to guide the children about these matters – church seems to be ignoring the need to take responsibility to do this.
• Keep all mobile phones away while praying, eating and talking.
• Teach the children to keep away and switch off iPad, phone, laptop and TV as a part of respecting the guests and others while they talk.
Children are the gift of God. Parents need to train and equip them for the bright future by showing a model and Godly life. Children are innocent, but as they live in this modern world where they are exposed to pollution. Parents must realize that their kids have another face outside the home. Mistakes need to be corrected and addressed at the earliest.Money will come and go, but you have only one life. Therefore give utmost priority toyour children over money, career or social and ministry life.
A Christ- centered home will be the best place the child can ever live. As parents we need to live and enjoy with them. Do not humiliate or provoke them, love them with a forgiving heart. Correction and punishment must be out of love. Then children will understand Jesus in and through your life and behavior. (Eph.6.2-4)