By: Gulrukh Tausif
We often talk about the negative impact of social media, Hollywood/Bollywood movies or video games on our children but we forget that children are exposed to a lot of violence many times a day through television, newspapers and the Internet.
It has become quite a norm for news channels to air detailed and repetitive visual coverage of gory crimes, heated political debates, global conflicts and scenes of great tragedies.
Recently, I got a firsthand insight into how 24 hour breaking news bulletins, exclusive news coverage and detailed news analysis is affecting the minds of our young children.
I had volunteered to be a substitute in a school for an English teacher who had to go on leave for a few days. During my temporary duty, I happened to check some essays written by young students on the theme of peace.
I was amazed and a little dejected by the content of those essays. I was amazed because children as young as 11 year olds had shown keen observation and understanding of our political affairs as well as national and international conflicts which plague our world today.
But I also felt extremely dejected because those essays exuded hopelessness, anger, frustration and fear felt by our children. And I feel as adults we have failed them!
In all the essays that I read, I found three things were uppermost in the minds, hearts and souls of our children when it came to the theme of peace ….our politicians, TV talk shows and Syria.
Our children have a very poor view of politicians. They see them not as leaders or statesmen but as figures that rave and rant against each other, make false promises and are wholly corrupt. But you might ask how does it relate to the topic of peace?
From the children’s essays I found that children blame the politicians for the divisive society that we live in. I felt that the children believe that our politicians set us against each other for power. The concept of unity as Pakistanis has become vague as we identify ourselves more as followers of a particular political party or diehard fans of a party’s infallible chairman.
TV Talk Shows
Talk shows, their hosts, anchorpersons and guests were blamed for destroying peace of mind and shattering tranquility in homes. Children believe that people in talk shows behave very badly. They are rude to each other; they fight and abuse each other verbally, interrupt conversations and are unable to listen to each other with any semblance of tolerance or open mindedness.
They feel most people on TV talk shows behave in a way that would never be tolerated by adults if children were to behave in a similar way in homes, schools or public places….food for thought indeed!
It was surprising how many young children wrote about Syria. Too young to know much about ISIS, Daesh, Putin, Assad or Trump, they vented their anger on the “so called” world leaders and the UN for allowing the children to suffer and bombs to fall.
Bombs…that are all their young minds comprehend …..Bombs falling on homes in which children live with their families; Bombs reducing houses and schools to rubble; Bombs falling while crying parents carry dead and severely injured bodies of their infants in their arms.
A great deal of anger was displayed by children when talking about use of pellet guns in Kashmir by the Indian Army. Similarly harsh treatment of Palestinian at hands of Israeli soldiers at checkpoints also frustrated them, but from their essays I felt that the Syrian war has truly shaken the confidence of our children in the adults around them.
Maybe, a child psychologist might be able to read more between the lines and give a better analysis than a layperson like me, but I sensed that children feel not only the anguish and pain of their Syrian brothers and sisters but also anger at the state of the world.
They also lay the blame on those they feel are most responsible for all the bloodshed…we, the adults, the leaders and statesmen, the diplomats and heads of states that have been unable to prevent such horrific events from taking place.
What touched me most was that at the end of almost every essay, each child had shown fierce determination to work for peace and make Pakistan a peaceful place. I pray that their determination and patriotism never wanes.