A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Mom, stop cursing my phone!

This week was loads of fun on my Twitter timeline. I’d put up a tweet on how my mom’s prescribed treatment for any ailment in life is ‘thoda paani zada piyo’ (drink more water), even if that problem is heartbreak. The tweet got tonnes of responses from the ever-so-witty Twitterati. Many also shared what their mom’s typical remedy to all problems in life is. And the one that totally stood out among the responses that came from Wasseypur to Wayanad and Bathinda to Bengaluru was everyone’s mom saying the same thing — iss mobile phone ko aag laga de, sab theek ho jayega!

Oh, how parents hate the excessive usage of mobile phone by youngsters. It’s no less than the worsening tensions between South Korea and Kim Jong-un, I tell you. Now since you all have recently been through the all-consuming election season, let me try and explain the scenario with an imaginary smatter of political references.

The bond between a young person in India — male or female — and their smart phone is unbreakable, much like the friendship between Amit Shah and PM Modi. Chhootne ka yah tootne ka sawaal hi nahi. Right from the first rays of the morning, when the hand starts to look for the phone under the pillow even when the eyes aren’t yet open, to the depth of the night when the glow of the cellphone in the dark reflects on the sleepy face, this bond stays constant.

An April 2018 study, funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, reveals that “the anxiety and fear of missing out on information make university students check their mobile devices as many as 150 times in a day”, perhaps equal to the average number of times Arvind Kejriwal prays in a day that Delhi Police should come under his control. 63% of the college students surveyed for the research are hooked to their smart phone for 4-7 hours a day, and 23% use their phone for more than eight hours a day. Experts call these figures alarming and potentially detrimental to health, but then the impact of these warnings on the addicted youngsters is like the fate of the Mahagathbandhan — neither here nor there.

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The frustration felt by the mothers of India over this excessive phone usage is perhaps as deep as that of the Congress party after the election results. Koi unki baat hi nahi sun raha. And it doesn’t help to know that KPMG predicts the number of smartphone users in India to reach a record 690 million by 2020. Toh phones toh hamare ghar mein ghusenge bhi aur ghus ke ladaai karwayenge bhi. Everyday even for the next five years, you can be assured of seeing screaming matches — between shouting panelists on news debates and between moms and their honhaar offsprings over the wretched phones in their hands.

In the past, I have implored the young readers of this column to restrict their cellphone screen time, but my advice has had just about as much an impact as Aam Aadmi Party’s vote share in Haryana. So today, I’m not pleading in front of the youngsters. I am going to address the parents, especially the moms who have a chappal ready in their hand as they wake up their teenager who was on the phone till 3am.

Ma’am, I feel your pain. It’s not easy to give birth to a perfectly normal, healthy baby with all functional organs, and then watch them grow into beings whose heads are permanently bent to look at the screen and fingers curved to use the keypad. But kya hai nah, the day you exposed your 12-year-old to a smartphone of his own, you decided to voluntarily send your child into the hostel of lunatic absurdity. Ab woh aap ka bachcha nahi raha, ab woh Apps ka bachcha ban chukka hai. There’s Instagram, there’s Twitter, there’s WhatsApp, there’s FB, YouTube…It’s like a social media octopus that has firmly grabbed your son or daughter with all eight tentacles. Except that your child is enjoying the grip. Now to keep cursing your child or the octopus day after day would achieve precious little. So here’s what you should do, me thinks.

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1 Drop the sarcasm: Roz taana maaro toh uska sting chala jaata hai. Constantly badgering your teenager by using cutting words and taunts is more likely to make them defiant. It anyway makes no sense to remind them of how you were in your student years. Because, you see, you may have done wonders studying under the street lamp, but it isn’t really your child’s fault that the ‘luxuries’ you have provided him today did not exist in your time. You were more fortunate and comfortable as compared to kids two generations prior to yours — they are more comfortable today than how you were. It’s simply how time works. Yes, it’s absolutely important for them to understand the value of what they have, but riding on sarcasm is not going to get you there faster. Whining only breeds whiners around you.

2 Treat them like grown-ups: People understand respect more than words. And it is inherently true that our problems, at any age that we are, seem like the biggest monsters at that time. So while you may not think that pacifying a sulking girlfriend is necessarily a productive activity, your son may just think of it as priority number 1. So if you find your child worried and constantly on phone, give them space and give them your understanding. Treat their problems with importance, talk to them without looking down upon them, and they will look up to you forever.

3 Lead by example: Cribbing is a two-way street. If you complain on and on about your teenager’s addiction to the cellphone, you can’t expect them to not remind you of your preoccupation with things that keep you busy. I have seen dads scolding their youngsters for using a cellphone while eating, and then get busy with watching a heated TV news debate while having dinner themselves. You might think that your spending time on your laptop, your calls, etc. is important for running the household, but then in the mind of your teenager, his/her social activities are as critical to their happiness. If you want him to take time off (and you must want that), you’d have to lead by example and make family time fun. I can guarantee one thing — you’ll both love it.

Sonal Kalra got sick of her mom cursing her mobile and calling her Phonal Kalra. She gifted a new smartphone to her mom and got her addicted to satsang apps. Now there’s Jai Shri Ram at home. Mail your feedback at sonal.kalra@hindustantimes.com or facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra

First Published:
Jun 01, 2019 15:43 IST

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