Today I read an article in "The Indian Express "that spoke about how teachers in some schools of Chennai went on social networking sites using fake ids and then tried to add the students of their school on their network as their friends so that they can spy on them- trying to see what they spoke to each other. Students who were found speaking badly of the teachers or criticising the school were pulled up later in the school by the principal!! The parents also encouraged this- they were particularly keen to know if their children were interacting with classmates of the opposite sex and what was it that they were talking!
To say that I was shocked when I read this, would be an understatement! I think it is a serious case of deceit being practiced by adults in an attempt to “control” and wield their power over these youngsters! It impinges on their freedom of expression ( a fundamental right that this country grants all its citizens). How can we prevent teenagers from doing what comes naturally to them in this age? All children have at some time in their lives ( ourselves included) have made fun of teachers, drawn cartoons of them and mimicked them. If teachers cannot take this in their stride then there is something very SERIOUSLY wrong with the individuals who are entering the teaching profession today. And about preventing interactions with the opposite sex in the real or virtual world- I think it is laying the ground for some serious personality problems later on in life!
I am a pretty ordinary middle class mom and I do realize that social networking sites can be addictive and interfere with children’s concentration in studies. When our daughter turned thirteen she wanted a face book id. After a lot of discussion we agreed provided she limited her interactions on FB to about 2 hours a week. Another ground rule that we laid was that she could not accept friend requests from people she did not know. I must say that she has used these privileges really well and has been cautious about accepting friend requests. There are a lot of her classmates- both boys and girls, their parents, her teachers, her cousins, aunts, uncles on her list of friends. I am also on the list of friends among her class mates. None of us here have used any fake IDs and we are who we are. Sometimes I enjoy joining a conversation with some comments. I have seen some cartoons that some of her classmates have put on their profiles and the only thing that strikes me when I see them are that these children are very talented. Knowing the teachers of the school she goes to, I am sure they would also be taking it all in with a smile.
About the interactions between boys and girls –I would say that it is probably the most healthy thing that can happen in a co ed school. It is important that they grow up studying together and being each other’s friends so that when they are adults the opposite sex is not a mystery that has to be unravelled! It also prepares them for mature relationships with the opposite sex because if you have been in a coed and had a healthy interaction with the opposite sex you are less likely to lose your head or heart over someone simply because that person looked at you or talked to you! I was in a co ed college during my under grad years and I think I transitioned very well into a co ed post graduate institute unlike some of the my female classmates who had done their under grad in exclusive girls colleges.. Many of them behaved like they were on the “Gold coast” when they joined their MA program. Those in the hostel went even crazier!
I cannot understand the fear that parents have of interaction with the opposite sex. It is the most normal thing that after a certain age girls and boys would be interested in each other. The article that I had quoted above also mentions about how one of the parents of a school in Chennai, made a big hue and cry when he found that some of the boys of his daughter’s class had made what he termed “lewd” remarks on some of his daughter’s photos. I think the more practical thing would have been to advise his daughter to learn how to deal with such comments. After all life for a girl or a woman is full of people passing lewd remarks- over the years we learn how to deal with it.
I must say with pride that my parents always encouraged us ( both me and my sister ) to bring all our classmates- both girls and boys home. There was never any restriction about not talking to any boy. Whenever I told my parents that a group of our classmates were going out for a movie together my father’s automatic remark would be “ Hope you girls are not going all alone. Take some boys with you”. We never tied rakhis to any of these guys- they continue to be my good friends even today . My husband knows them and I am really close to some of their wives. Now, I am wondering how things would have been had my parents been different!
But coming back to these restriction, I must share the case of an engineering college in the outskirts of Chennai which prevents boy students from talking to the girls. If they do then they are fined. The bus that takes them to and from college has a physical barrier separating the girls’section from the boys’s section. When I hear about all this, I wonder if we are living in the middle ages. We have no business to comment about restrictive practices in the middle east when a so called metro city like Chennai has a college like this!
Somewhere along the way our generation is regressing. I think a lot of our parents were more open about many things than we are. Let us not give excuses about how there are more bad influences on TV and cinema today. If we guide our children well, they are going to indulge in any of this! We need to be proactive encouraging our children to talk to us about issues that are bothering them and seek answers from responsible older people like us. If we start saying “Don’t”, “No “ to all these things then we are only encouraging a double life. One in which they say “Yes mummy” “Ok daddy” and behind our backs run wild! Would we like that? As a mother I can say that I wouldn’t!