AFTER a hectic couple of weeks full of shows, I spent last weekend celebrating friendships, both old and new. I had a massive BBQ party for friends who had helped in preparing for the shows and projects to thank them all for their support, friendship and big hearts. The party was also a farewell of sorts for a wonderful and dear old friend of mine.
Due to my busy schedule, I’ve been missing out on much needed quality time with the important people in my life. As with all parties, not everyone was able to make it, but this didn’t prevent me from having a blast. It was fantastic to see everyone enjoying themselves, chatting, drinking and eating. Of course, saying farewell to my dear friend was quite heart-wrenching, but we still managed to share many laughs. Even my children enjoyed the evening playing with their old friends and making new ones.
Aside from the usual party banter and gossip about people we knew, lots of memories were relived; we caught up with current news and just generally had fun. One topic that seemed to dominate the evening was how fast our children were growing up. This got me wondering, whose fault is it really? Is it because of the advanced technologies they are exposed to these days … or rather the fault of parents?
I have heard horrifying stories of under-aged children – sometimes as young as 12! – who are having sex, often without protection, and their parents are OK with this behaviour. Some European friends say this is pretty common for them. In fact, research has shown that over the past 50 years, the number of teenage girls who are sexually active has quadrupled! Unfortunately, this kind of behaviour is no longer contained within the West and becoming more rampant even here in Asia. Personally, I cannot begin to understand this but it seems more people have begun to accept that it is normal for teens to be sexually active.
A while back, I was watching a documentary about traditional weddings, which highlighted arranged marriages involving children, especially among minority tribes. This documentary shared the story of four sisters who got married at the same time, the youngest of whom was only four! According to some traditions, if a boy of that age isn’t married yet, he will bring shame to his family. It’s sad to think that this practice continues to exist in this day and age.
I know for a fact that my grandparents had an arranged marriage. Grandma used to tell me how many of her friends back then were arranged to be married even before they were born. But circumstances were different then.
I guess in certain communities where marriage is seen as economic security for girls, things are different. But in societies like ours, where girls have every opportunity to create their own financial security, children are still maturing too quickly. And I feel both parents and technology have played a role.
Technology has become so accessible, allowing kids to be exposed to sites they shouldn’t be viewing. And parents are not monitoring what their children view online. I have even heard of parents watching pornographic movies in the same room as their young children! Children these days are smart and they learn fast.
They are also impressionable, and being exposed to this sort of film would make them think this behaviour is acceptable and that it’s okay for them to imitate it. Scary!
Even movies these days expose young children to unsuitable words and images. Stories that seem innocent enough for young kids are often laced with topics that are too mature for them. Take the movie Ted, which was released not too long ago. I actually contemplated taking my children to watch it because I was under the impression, from the posters that I had seen, that it was simply about a young boy and his teddy bear.
Luckily, I went online to check out the trailer and reviews. The movie was full of obscenities and actions that I definitely would not have wanted my young children to watch.
So, yes, in a way the Internet is great as it allows us to access useful information so much easier and faster. However, if not used properly, it can open Pandora’s box of elements we want to keep away from our kids. I was told by a friend that even adding filters to websites is not completely fool-proof. There seems to be no way around this one – we are living in a very advanced world where all sorts of data, including the unsavoury kind – have become very accessible. This makes the world a very scary place indeed, especially in terms of young children and teenagers.
Even TV channels, such as MTV, present girls in revealing clothes and seductive dance. Too many little girls will therefore think that dressing and behaving in that fashion is “cool”. It makes me sick when I see so many girls these days acting much more mature than they are. I also feel sorry for our children, the future leaders of our world, to have been injected with such unnecessary images in their heads from such a young age.
I’m not sure how we can help change this world to be a better place for our children. It will definitely be a tough mission, but it’s vital that we try anyway. We just have to be more cautious and keep a close eye on our kids’ daily activities to protect them from negative influences.
It’s important that we show them happy movies and stories, and preserve their childhood for as long as possible. Childhood is the most carefree and happy time they will ever have. Let’s not rob our children of this wonderful, innocent experience.
It really is difficult being parents today, but we can only try.
Mel’s Place is a fortnightly column by Melinda Looi for The Star newspaper.