Challenge: Overexposure to the internet
Family: The Makwanas, Matunga (East)
Shaili Makwana, a 12-year-old studying in DPYA School, Wadala, has just topped her Class 5 exams. She has always been a rank holder, says her mother, Nipa, with pride.
“My daughter is unlike others her age, who are fashionable, make unreasonable demands, get in bad company and throw tantrums. But despite her being very good at academics, I am very concerned about the time she spends on the internet. I’m constantly worried that she’ll visit the wrong sites and chat too much when I’m not around,” says Nipa.
Shaili stays in a nuclear family in a one-bedroom flat at Matunga. Her father Suryakant is a businessman and mother a homemaker. And, given her tender age, both parents are trying their best to keep their only child from bad company by keeping a watch on her whereabouts constantly.
But although Nipa can keep an eye on where Shaili goes, she has little control over her virtual life. Shaili loves being on the internet, chatting with friends on Facebook and playing games online. Given Nipa’s little knowledge of the online world, there’s little she can do to monitor Shaili’s surfing. “I have a craze for the net and love to be on Facebook and play games until my eyes give up,” smiles Shaili.
“The problem is,” says Nipa, “that whenever Shaili is not studying, all she does is browse the net and log on to Facebook. That’s why I decided to be strict and to schedule her day to the minute.”
Shaili has been given 30 minutes for the TV, 30 minutes for cycling, two hours for studies in the morning and 30 minutes for the internet. While she adheres to all other timings, the last one always extends way past the deadline on most days. At times, when her mother is out on errands, Shaili makes the most of the opportunity by finishing her homework quickly and being glued to the TV screen.
Nipa is concerned about who her daughter chats with, the sites she visits and the games she plays. Shaili, though, is irritated at her mother’s constant nagging. “She keeps a close watch by standing behind me every time I’m online and always asking me the name of who I’m chatting with. I get irritated; I don’t like being observed all the time,” says the girl.
Peer pressure also plays a role in Shaili’s addiction to the internet. “My entire class is on Facebook; I don’t want to be left out. Moreover, other children’s parents don’t impose as many restrictions on them as my parents do. They are free to be online when they want to be. I see them each time I log on. But I don’t get this kind of liberty,” she complains.
Shaili also feels that her mother doesn’t quite understand her. “There is a generation gap between my parents and me. That’s why my mother keeps a watch on my chat list and asks so many questions.”
Shaili is used to her tight schedule, but sometimes feels it gets too much. “I have been given limited time for the TV and the net,” she says. Shaili hardly gets to play games on the ground as her mother fears that she will get into bad company. “I don’t like to send my daughter to play with children I don’t know,” says Nipa.
But this makes Shaili feel left out.