By Kartik Bajoria
There has been a lot of brouhaha over the past fortnight about an app called TikTok. The video-sharing platform that found over a 100 million subscribers in India, in addition to its billion global subscriber base, has come under fire from the judiciary. While patrons of the platform, from within the youth, seem to think otherwise, there is apparent consensus among parents and society in general, that there is harmful exposure from these kinds of apps.
What perhaps we should be focusing on, as adults and caregivers, is how to circumvent such stimuli in the first place. So what can we as parents do to try and ensure that our kids don’t fall prey?
A supportive environment
Children unwittingly seek parental validation. It is wired into our very DNA and is one of the cornerstones of the human condition. What tends to happen is that for certain ‘alternative’ interests and passions of our kids, especially those we don’t necessarily approve of, or find too ‘risky’ (such as a child wanting be become a professional musician), we parents inadvertently advice and engineer situations where these interest stay hobbies at best. This can lead to a lot of discontentment and disillusionment in a child. And this growing frustration of not receiving support, encouragement and validation from parents, can manifest in seeking it out from other places and platforms. “My parents don’t approve of my singing, let me put it out on an app”, can very well be a direct result.
However, if we recognise, acknowledge, encourage and support our children in their albeit risky endeavours, they are less likely to stray and look for validation elsewhere. Even if it is a path that is fraught with uncertainty and difficulties, rather than an outright NO, it is always a better bet to reason, explain, and make children aware of the truths. They will appreciate this infinitely more than a blanket ‘no’.
No quick-fix to fame
We are also, unfortunately, living in a time of ‘instant gratification’. From coffee to a date, everything can be had at the click of a button. With overnight pop culture sensations, self-published singers, authors, and performers gaining notoriety and unprecedented fan-followings on social media; there seems to be a deep desire for instant fame too. The deep desire for recognition, that too in a flash, is a problem that an entire generation seems to have developed.
The only way of combating this is for parents to constantly talk to, and discuss this with their children. Through examples and discussions, explain to children that there is no such thing as fame without incredible and persistent hard work. It is only parents who can mitigate the lure of instant fame which is a big reason why more and more teens and pre-teens are gravitating to platforms such as Tiktok.
Ultimately, avoiding moral degradation by exposure to wrong stimuli can only be prevented by a strong, value-based upbringing. In most scenarios in life, it is an individual’s will-power and belief system that holds that person in good stead and deters him or her from falling through the cracks. I can share my own example. When I went off to boarding school, I was suddenly exposed to children who came from extremely wealthy families and possessed things, had experiences, took holidays, which I couldn’t even dream of. I could have, upon seeing this, very easily slipped into a complex. But it was my own parents’ values, ones that told me it wasn’t important anything to feel bad about, not being super-rich, that made me stay strong, and not define myself solely based on those parameters.
It works the same way with anything morally repugnant. If parents instill good values in kids and we encourage our children to focus on the right things – gender equality, kindness, self-actualisation, selflessness, and make our children develop a healthy and strong sense of self; they are much less likely to fall into any kind of trap that compromises their morals, from any kind of source, electronic, virtual, or in the physical world.
As parents, we do have other ways of monitoring, restricting and censoring content that our children consume. Devices including mobile phones and smart televisions, as well as streaming apps like Netflix, can be child-locked, and what is available to children to view and consume can be curated and monitored. However, in order for our children to truly be immune to moral and cultural degradation, it boils down to the home environment and the kind of example parents set for them in their formative years.
(Writer, educator and moderator, Kartik Bajoria holds workshops on creative writing and personality development at various schools. Views are personal.)