We are not teaching them to have sex or about sex, so let us not start the conversation with sex, because sadly in India the word sex is related to the act and not the education around it! Call it gender education, body literacy etc. because parents balk when we say we have sex education! Let us accept the fact that this topic needs to be approached with sensitivity and clarity, not ‘sensationalization’ or ambiguity.
A few months back it happened in Mumbai, we ranted about it and then fell silent. Now it has raised its ugly head in Delhi, a few more blogs, discussions, debates, finger-pointing and then the ostrich attitude? Or will both parents and schools take this a little more seriously, that our children are associating porn and rape as an acceptable fact of growing up. The burden lies on our shoulders, the adults, that we have allowed them to grow up with these horrendous ideas and when these surface we are too embarrassed and upset to do anything about it.
Last time I wrote that parents and schools are to be blamed, and I still blame them! Parents, because these are things they should have noticed, or maybe their children learnt by observing and imitating them, their thoughts, comments, stray conversations, jokes. And schools, because they are unable to bring about proper trainings and rules of conduct.
Lewd comments, derogatory remarks are age-old ways in which the male of the species tries to show his masculinity and power over females. And now females have joined this horrible bandwagon, as there are stories of girls and boys using sex and lewd comments against each other. Sex has become a weapon and power for boys and men and now girls and women. How did it happen? Who let it happen? This is not ingrained in our genes, it is taught behaviour. It is learnt from parents, from relatives and from friends. But this means that you did not teach your child how to differentiate between right and wrong or how to exercise impulse control when it comes to this kind of behaviour. The world is full of temptations; they are the wrong things that seem right at the time. When they get into trouble or temptation and don’t know right from wrong, who does your child go to? Ask them today.
Our children are missing an important growth step; they are growing from babies to toddlers to teenagers! We are not allowing them to become children or stay children. If parents take 8 and 10-year-old children to see films like Good Newz, where there are so many lewd references, is it age and developmentally appropriate? Who is to be blamed here?
This is not a matter to just be tweeted about; this is a matter that needs action from you and me, today and every day so that boys or girls don’t indulge in such shameless, remorseless behaviour. This matter requires a soft and firm attitude, soft because we need to help children understand and develop empathy about its impact on others and firm because we need to spell out the consequences of such behaviour to children. Clearly.
Schools and colleges should make it mandatory that this kind of behaviour, done in hiding or in open, done underground in hidden WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram groups or done through videos and chat forums, will not be accepted and can result in loss of qualification and dignity.
Parents, its time you sat with your child, girl or boy, if the child is 8 years and above, its time you sat down with your child and found out about the chats and conversations they are having. Talk about acceptable and unacceptable. Make yourself the ‘go-to person’ for your child so that your child does not learn about it from friends and strangers on the web. It may embarrass you but you are the parent, after all, so parent up!
And schools need to stop hiding such things just because you are scared of losing an admission or about the media circus that will ensue. Remember you are an educational institution and in many ways, you are the third parent.
It’s not too late, let us safeguard our children by keeping communication channels open between us and by teaching them right from wrong. Its time to add value education and moral education to gender education and body literacy.
Dr. Swati Popat Vats is a Parenting Mentor, President of Early Childhood Association (ECA) & Association for Primary Education & Research (APER)
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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