Indian children take to multi-tasking
For teenagers in urban India, being active in the virtual world has become a daily, sometimes hourly, need. Updating Facebook, typing email, and chatting on blackberry messenger all at the same time is their way of multi-tasking.india Updated: Sep 27, 2010 15:07 IST
Nikita Mathur types an e-mail, updates her profile status on social networking site Facebook, wades through her study notes and manages to have a phone conversation as well.
"I usually spend three to four hours on the internet daily. Facebook can't be missed even a single day. But I do other things also while I am online - say homework or talking to my parents. I think I save time by indulging in multiple activities," said the 13-year-old Class 8 student of Ryan International School, Delhi.
For a growing number of teenagers in urban India, being active in the virtual world has become a daily, sometimes hourly, need - even if it is at the cost of their studies. Besides the internet, there are other distractions too like the Blackberry messenger service.
Strange as it may sound, the youngsters call it "multi-tasking"!
"In the virtual world, you cannot afford to be a step behind. I want to be a perfect netizen while I'm online, managing four different activities," said Vineet Sharma, 18, a Delhi University student.
There are nearly 52 million internet users in India, according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India. And many of these are schoolgoers who spend much of their off-school hours surfing.
But a study conducted by Britain-based psychologists found that the exam results of students using Facebook while working on other tasks were 20 percent lower than non-users. The study surveyed 219 students aged between 19 and 54 at an American university.
The study has unleashed fresh worries over Facebook, which has nearly eight million users in India. Parents, especially, are cautious.
Shambhavi Sharma, mother of 16-year-old Anvesh, said: "My son has his eyes set on the laptop the moment he returns from school. I always hear him discussing gadgets and mobile phones with friends."
A Facebook group, 'No Exams', has over 100,000 members. Then there are groups such as 'Whoever created school exams should be hanged', which has over 950 members. Both groups have many Indian members.
Of the 635 million mobile phone subscribers in India, more than 16 million access internet on their phones, claims Facebook.
"I try to ensure that my daughter does not stay on the computer for more than two hours a day. But I can't do much as most assignments given by her school require the help of the internet. She has Facebook on the phone also," said Rekha Kaul, mother of Arshiya, 13.
While children may think constant task-switching allows them to get more work done in less time, the reality is starkly different.
"One needs to understand the difference between multi-tasking by adults and children. Adults might indulge in various tasks at the same time because of demands, but for children that might just be a craze," said child psychologist Diana Lorena.
"Kids have been carried away by the need to be popular on social networking sites, during which they also handle other tasks."
"Facebook has induced a level of artificiality in society. The desire to seek attention by putting up a bizarre status or pictures is fast catching up with youngsters," Lorena told IANS.
Facebook users in India upload more than 53 million photos a month. Advancements such as the Blackberry messenger service - which enables users of this brand to exchange messages for free - are also a rage among teenagers.
Karthik Kulkarni, the father of 14-year-old Swati, said: "My daughter asked for a Blackberry on her birthday. How could I refuse? She owns a laptop also."
Experts advise caution.
"The child will explore the virtual world in the absence of his parents, which might even be disastrous," social psychologist and Delhi University lecturer Surbhika Maheshwari told IANS.
"Every child has social needs. When these are not met in a physical manner or through inter-personal communication, the child resorts to virtual world."
But, of course, Gen Now refuses to accept the criticism.
Schoolgoer Mehek Dua quipped: "You can't blame Facebook alone. It may be one way of shirking studies but so is TV, video games, friends, mobile phones, etc. It is all about one's level of concentration."