How I Finally Got Success In Limiting The Screen Time Of My Overindulgent Daughter?

Toony Mum

Much to my chagrin, my husband bought an iPad for my daughter on her second birthday. As if the non-stop cartoon network wasn’t enough! I was then working in a 9 to 6 job and my daughter was taken care of by her grandparents – who, if you know Indian grandparents – were raining their mushy slushy love for their grandchild by allowing her to do things ‘her’ way. My weekends were usually spent on running errands. The end result was that my 2-year-old was becoming an expert in video games and a walking encyclopedia on cartoons.

I swear I’m not exaggerating. I’ve had several moments of uneasiness listening to her impeccable knowledge on cartoon genealogy when I wouldn’t even know my great grandfather’s name. My smiles at her gaming feats would diffuse into thin air when she would throw tantrums and make a terrible racket as soon as the…

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How cartoons affect gender development?


81bVXDLeImL._SX425_My fast growing up seven years old has started to question my ‘objections and affections’ for her cartoons. Recently she has built strong liking for a cartoon series Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir. Once I was watching it with her and  I saw something that was caught up by my ‘picky mom radar’.

First let me tell you why I am going to write against it and then I will tell you the answers I am going to give to my daughter who has been demanding an explanation as to ‘why am I discouraging her to watch it’. She is really annoyed. I am hopeful, I can reason out that with her.  

For the benefit of those who don’t know about this cartoon, let me just quickly walk you through the plot. There is one female superhero and male superhero named Ladybug and Cat Noir respectively. There is lots of action, creative thinking and teamwork but the problem is somewhere in between I have strong objections to the stereotypical presentation of the female lead. Why the best effort to break gender stereotype ends up doing something altogether the opposite?. I find her terrible -terrible example for young minds that shows ‘ girls want to be kissed’ , ‘going weak in knees’ in front of charming boys. It’s a show about ‘obsession’. Noir who is otherwise a shy and reserved guy becomes a flirt when he is Cat Noir.

The other problem I have with this show is sexualized presentation of the lead character. Tight clothes are okey because then how would she make moves and overpower the evil guy. The focus is wrong. The focus is more on her pelvic region and less on her face. At the onset, you see her buttocks and then she turns to give a full look. She is all the time drooling over Cat Noir and often fall short of fulling her superhero duties while going weak in knees in her ‘obsession’ ‘s presence. This show runs in domain of gender stereotyping that girls  –  run after boys.

If this is what being served daily to tender eyes, how will they see the world and themselves?

Lets talk about some other cartoons, our own very brave Chota Bhim. He is the one taking leads in all problem while the only female character out of other six characters – Chutki is seen exhibiting ‘female appropriate emotions’, praying for Bhim’s victory and offering him Laddoos.

Nobita & Shin Chan’s moms who are homemakers, are shown as rude, irritated and loud women. Shizuka despite having good grades and intelligent sincere mind wants to be a ‘ good house wife’. Wow !

At times I ponder over why is that women take backseat and understate their own needs and desires or why they think they are insignificant because they are conditioned to see themselves as ‘insignificant’. There are quite a number of cartoons which show that one of the two genders is dominant and important  while the other is insignificant and always in need of protection. One should not display sadness and fear, and the other should not displays anger and aggression.

 

 

 

How to save children from dark side of cyberworld?

  I was searching for ideas to make a bunnymask for my daughter’s school activity and the search engine spun out some “No-no don’t look at” pictures of sexy aunties too. A naïve search can land you anywhere in the cyberworld. There is a seamy and sordid side of internet that we need to ward off from our house safe-internetand keep our children away.

First thing that never fail and always work is gaining trust of your kids and engaging them in dialogue about the good, bad and evil sides of internet. You can switch on this conversation while walking them to park, watching TV, surfing on net. Its an ongoing thing that you may have to repeat many a times. Let them know you want them to be safe. Let them know these very important things –

* never to give their name, phone number, e-mail address, password, postal address, school, or picture without your permission
* not to open e-mail from people they don’t know
* not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages
* not to get together with anyone they “meet” online

Second thing that will help you get better hold and understanding of the bugs that needs to be fixed is knowing there cyberplayground. Join them often when they play games, watch videos and cartoons on Youtube. Keep an eye open for what all is there in recommended list.

Tim Loden who is a staff director of the Internet Education Foundation GetNetWise said a very wise thing that, “Parents have to get involved. Just as they know every detail of the playground around the corner  — the jungle gym, the swings  — they need to know their kids’ online playground as well,”

Third thing is that which only you should know- enable the Parental Control Features on Your Child’s Game Systems and/or Mobile Devices. Devices have web browsers. Most devices kids use, such as iPad and PlayStation 4, have parental controls that you can set to restrict the content that your kids can access. Often check the device to see if the password you set is still working.

Go to the “Block Sites” section, under “System Preferences” and block domains and keywords you don’t want your kids to catch.  In the text box, enter the words or sites separated by commas. (For example: sex, porn) Click “Apply” to save the settings. You may like to add sites and words after you see what your child is doing.

Download parental control software like Norton Online Family, Windows Live Family Safety, AVG Family Safety, PGSurfer and K9 Web Protection 4.0.296, they are some free downloadable software choices. Choose one that allows you to control content as well as monitor usage. Follow the software’s instructions to block sites and set up the monitoring system.

Before doing all the above set rules and make clear what are the consequences of breaking them. Like if “you watch for more than an hour, you will have no cartoons tomorrow … ( if its too much for them to take then …) half an hour cartoon tomorrow.” 

These are tried and tested things for making house internet safe for children. Share your thoughts if any other hack worked for you.

 

image credit: bdoza.files

What our kids are being showed in the name of entertainment — Watch out!

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I was vacationing in India this summer. The sultry and scorching days did not leave any choice for me and my daughter but to slump in the couch and watch some cartoons. I switched on the TV and after some careful shuffling through buttons, we settled on one of them. It was a commercial break that took forever to end. Guzzling down that advert was not without efforts , there was a beauty soap advert, where there was a fuddled husband running behind his wife to know the secret of her lasting fresh looks. I wondered what was there to achieve through this commercial that was running on a channel dedicated for children.

The commercial break ended after conducting a litmus paper test on my patience.

It’s good to see a good bunch of home-grown cartoon characters coming up. It’s equally sorry to see the contents famished of positive messages. There seems to be no concerns for what an average mother must be going through when she overhears her kids laughing and rolling over something like, “Bidu tera fatela hatela advice nahi mangta”.

There are some new crop of characters and episodes running on different channels. One common pattern that runs through the tapestry one after another is that all protagonists are good at kicking, punching and resorting to physical violence to teach lessons to the devil ones. One popular cartoon series is about three ghosts who keep track of sins committed on earth and they come down from their ‘bhoot-lok’ to torture and punish. There is also a timid and coy cop in the story. Law or rules are at mercy of these supernatural trio. If you are going to tell me that it’s a harmless subtle entertainment, hold on, this is exactly my issue. Our definition of entertainment is so grim and gross! From an early age we are allowing those impressionable minds to get conditioned to normalcy of laughing at somebody’s misery, pulped beaten faces, deformities and abnormalities.

How are we defining entertainment for school going children? What kind of apathy and aggression are we slowly injecting in them through the colourful hunky-dory characters?

The Indian cartoon factory is yet to spin out a character which can solve his problems with his good humour and positive attitude without having to beat the devil ones to pulp.

We should move towards more participatory and interactive format, where parents have more say in what kind of cartoons characters they want to be aired on TV. Definition of entertainment that is being formed and slowly gaining acceptance will have detrimental effects in the long run. There is another new series in which there are two he-cats who flirt around a neighbour she-cat. This she-cat has the tendency to tilt towards the stronger and better provider of her needs. It’s appalling!

As Indians we have the tendency to adjust to everything, make room for everything. Let this passivity not hamper the personality development of our kids. Their understanding of life should not be marred by the junk they take through TV every day. Let’s take the control button in our hands and let our voices be heard.

Narrative of the goose that was killed for laying golden eggs

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The Aesop’s fable ‘The Goose that laid golden eggs” has always been told from the point of view of the greedy farmer. It was all about him: his penury, his luck, his greed and his debacle. None of the narratives have ever come from the poor goose. What was its side of the story?

It did not last to tell its story of being loved, wronged and then finally killed.

If all unfortunate events are mapped on a sheet and red mark is put on every story that happened because of somebody’s greed, believe you me there will be many. Our poor earth is one such goose that is being killed for laying golden eggs and the farmers aka corporate owners will one day find nothing but parched surroundings enveloped in smuts and smokes. Our education, health, political and economic systems are being milked with apathy to the point that they are starving of values and dying of sheer disregard of principles. So, in one way or other, at this place or some other, golden gooses are being smothered to death for greed of “more of much”.

Anyway, let’s come back to the point. What would the goose have to say if it were given a chance to tell its version? Men write stories for men and see things from their perspective and those that serve their interest. What did that poor animal have to say to other animals and give lessons from its side of the story?

Here we go, let’s listen from the goose who just transmitted its message from heaven. Heaven? Yes, heaven since for those who are wronged, suffered and killed, the best form of salvage that this world provides to victims is the promise of Heaven … if not justice.

The Goose’s narration

Hello everybody,

I am the poor Goose from Aesop’s fable. I was not always poor, how my life was snuffed out, made me poor in the pages of stories. I was a free Goose that moseyed and dawdled in lush green surroundings of my natural habitat. I pecked the grains, pruned my feathers and plonked my head in the warmth of my arms to sleep. I was living my life on my terms and was free to run in the face of attack from wolves and dogs. One day I got tired of running and saving my life on my own and gave myself willingly into the hands of a hunter who came to catch geese from the Jungle.

So, here my friends is the first lesson from my life:

  1. Don’t exchange your freedom for anything

The hunter sold me to a farmer couple. They put me in a coop and gave me grains to feed. The grains were neither too much nor too little. I prayed to God to give me the ability to lay gold eggs so that the farmer would grow rich and give me enough grains.

  1. Don’t give more than what one deserves

Things improved for the farmer and his family. But my share of the grains did not improve. They remained just a handful. I was wronged and had the gut feeling that the farmer would not return the favors. But I still gave him another chance by laying more golden eggs.

3.      Once bitten twice shy

I wish I had not given him more eggs or had restored to giving just the normal eggs but it was too late. The greed had taken the better of him and one day the farmer came in my coop with a shining knife. He killed me.

So that’s my side of story.

What is bad, what is evil… dishonesty, greed, treachery and backstabbing all are there to stay. Even Adam and Eve could not be spared and they too had to leave paradise. The lessons were passed on from ages to ages but poor geese forget it every time, let’s remember the lessons the Goose’s ghost came to tell us… Don’t give the best of you freely and in undeserving hands.

A conversation on friendship with my 5 year old daughter

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It’s easier to talk to children above ten about complex things like relationships. (Maybe I am oversimplifying the problem). But when it comes to the audience whose understanding is limited to ‘sharing is the way of caring baba, baba black sheep’ it’s difficult to present something complex in a simple way.

Though Khalil Jibran has explicitly put everything that friendship is in these lines:

 Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside.

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind, you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”

 The problem was how to talk about this to my little 5 year old. There were many helpful parenting sites that talked about the clinical aspects of making friends or being one. I was looking for something more. I was looking to touch the root of the concept, to talk a bit of philosophy with my bitsy baby.

Let me tell you the background of what prompted me to take up this topic with her. After we shifted to a new country, I had a daunting task at hand. There was a park nearby our apartment. I and my daughter would stroll down there in the evenings. The task was to find a friend to play. A few initial visits were stressful for me, she played swings and slides with her roving eyes looking for a pal amidst her unanswered smiles and waves. My little one was disappointed but not disheartened.

One day she took her new bicycle to the park and there was a girl of her age who came to play with her. They both rode the bicycle by turns. I was also relieved that she finally had a companion. The next day she went without her bicycle. She looked for her friend everywhere. Finally, she saw her playing with a group of children. She waved to her and went near them expecting that she would be invited to play. But nothing like that happened. The bicycle friend turned out to be an opportunist.

That day my little brave heart was heartbroken. She came running towards me and she plonked her head in my lap and cried. We returned home.

She was yet to start her new school. Her mom, dad and a few stuffed bunnies and bears were her only acquaintances in the new land. I wanted to talk to her about what had happened in the park but I kept it to myself. Though she was back to her normal self but it was evident that she was hurt. It was the next day at bed time when I groped a chance to begin the conversation on Friendship and making friends.

I chose to read ‘The Stinky Little Kitten’  — Jim Peterson, a story about a friendly kitten who is refused help by all the farm animals when she jumps over onions and starts stinking. A piglet, whom she had always avoided, is the only animal which comes to her help to clean herself. When the stinky little kitten is washed and cleaned, she runs up to her mother, nonplussed as to why none of the animals whom she thought were her friends, helped her. To this, the smart mommy cat says:

“It’s not always that you choose your friends. Sometimes the friends choose you.”

 The end of the story brought a smile on my kitten’s face. I smiled back.

Me: “What do you think of the story?”

She :“I liked it.”

Me: “What did you like in it?”

She: “The stinky little kitten found her friend at last.”

Me: “Ummm okay but what made her think that the piglet was her friend?”

She: “Because he helped her.”

Me: “Yes dear helping is friendship, but it’s not just helping that makes good friends.

She: “Aunty (maid) helps you too.”

Me: (laughing) “I pay her. Helping is in return of something.”

She: “I know mama friends share things.”

Me: “Hmm okay you shared your bicycle with that park friend.”

She: (frowning) “Hmmm I was friend, she was not friend.”

Me: “Yeah okay tell me which cartoon friends you like the most.”

(Thinks for a moment)

She: “Yes I like Bambi and Thumper”

Me: “They are my favourite too. Why are they your favourite?”

She: “Umm Thumper and Bambi have lots of fun together.”

Me: “Yes they do, indeed.”

She: “Why do you like them?”

Me: “I like them because they are different yet they understand each other, try to improve each other. Remember how Thumper teaches Bambi to ski on ice.”

She: (giggling) “Yes I remember.”

Me: “So a friend is someone who has all these traits. Somebody who shares toys but doesn’t help is not a friend. Somebody who helps but does not understand you is not a friend.”

She: “You are my best friend.”

Me: “Yes, I am dear and will always remain your friend. When you will start your new school, when you will attend your music or craft classes, when you will grow up, you will find such a friend who will be polite, helpful, understanding and who will like the things you like, who will not come to you because you have a special toy or a new bicycle. That friend will befriend you for who you are.”

 A bright, bright smile spread across her face that brightened my heart too. I switched off the side lamp. While sleep was slowly pulling my eye lashes down this quotation by Gloria Naylor was running through my mind, “We cannot tell the exact moment a friendship is formed; as in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses, there is at last one that makes the heart run over.

 

The Frog Prince – retold!

frog-1591896_960_720When a kid in kindergarten gets work, it’s not the kid who gets the work, it’s we – the parents who get work. It’s our comprehensive ability at test. So when my ‘daughter’ received homework on learning and understanding the moral of the story ‘The Frog Prince’, it was inevitably I at work.

The best I could decipher, I wrote. “It’s a story of a princess who is fooled by a manipulative frog to free him from a curse.”

The next day, I found a red mark slanting deftly across the paragraph I had written with a one liner penned with much annoyance and haste at the bottom of it –

“That which thou hast promised must thou perform.”

With all sincere apologies to Grimm Brothers, I want to retell this story.

Instead of running amok perplexed and letting her father cajole her to give in to the demand of a stalker frog, the princess could have made a different choice. Yes, that tiny green, slimy amphibian stalked her around the palace until he landed on the royal dining table to cry foul.

Anyway, before I tell you ‘how it could have been’, let’s quickly recap the original tale.

“IN OLD times when wishing still helped one, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face…”

So begins the old fairy tale ‘The Frog Prince’.  It is the story of a princess who was playing with her golden ball near the palace. The ball slipped from her hand and fell into the well. She started crying. Hearing her cry, a frog crocked, “Princess if you let me eat from your plate, sleep on your bed and kiss me, I can bring your ball.” A talking frog!

In the evening, the princess was dining with the king when a soldier brought the frog into the dinner room. “The princess has broken her promise” the frog croaked. Quickly, he told the king all that had happened.” The king said –“That which thou hast promised must thou perform. Get him in.”

Though the princess was disgusted, she let the frog eat from her plate. Later, she reluctantly took him to her room and placed him in a corner. The frog however, hopped onto her bed. Furious, she threw him at the wall. The frog lay motionless. Ashamed of her action, the princess picked up the frog, placed him on her bed and kissed him. Immediately the frog transformed into a handsome prince. “Thank you, princess,” said the prince. He told her that a witch had made him a frog for refusing to marry her. Soon, the prince and the princess were married.

 As if the marriage was the panacea of all their worries in the world!

Hopefully – they lived happily ever after.

In exchange of a ball, a frog smartly manipulates a princess to promise him a dinner and a kiss. The princess knows it’s crazy and tries to save herself from keeping those ‘forced-commitments’. My issue is, why was a girl’s ‘No’ not enough? The frog had his way foxily. A girl is an instrument in the story through which a prince can regain his lost form. She is tricked into making weird commitments and then conscripted by her own father to keep them in the name of integrity.

It will not be out of place to recount a case I handled during my career as HR and a reporting point for sexual harassment cases in the organization. I asked the girl the reason for reporting it so late. She had been facing indecent overtures from her fellow colleague. She said that she was confused because the guy had been very helpful to her. He helped her in her projects and went out of the way to get things done for her. So, she owed him! In the barter, he was taking liberty in making sexual overtures.

Now what could possibly be different in the story – The Frog Prince?

Here I go:

Once upon a time there was a king. He had three daughters, whom he loved equally. The youngest of them was witty and brave. One day she was playing with her golden ball in the lawn by the pool. The ball slipped off from her hand and fell in the pool. She was thinking how to get it back when a frog jumped out of the pool. He was a talking frog!

The frog said, “I can take out the ball for you.”

The princess said, “O great! Please do.”

Frog said, “But you will have to promise me that in exchange of the ball you will have to let me eat from your plate, sleep on your bed and kiss me.”

The princess realized that was a freaky frog. She asked, “What is your problem, frog? Be realistic.” Frog was adamant and so was the princess. She said at last, “Ok you stay there I will get it myself.” She dived into the pool and got the ball. Drenched, the water dripping off her cloth in the puddle at her feet, she sat at the brink of the pool. The frog was sad. She asked him, “Why are you so strange?” The frog then narrated his story of how a witch transmogrified him into a frog. The princess felt sad for him but it was not easy for her to trust him as he had just tried to trick her into kissing him.

The princess scooped him up in her palm and planted a kiss on him. He transformed back into a prince. The prince was happy. He proposed her for marriage.

The princess said, “We don’t know enough of each other yet.” And she walked back towards her palace.

Her eyes had a gleam, her feet were light and her heart was brimming with pride and happiness.

Such a generous, witty and brave princess surely lived happily ever after.