Therapist decodes perils of cyberbullying, social learning and why kids are at risk
A New Age family therapist speaks about the perils of social media and cyberbullying ahead of a two-day workshop with teachers in the city
"We are creating a generation of children who are growing up to be completely disconnected from each other," said Laxmi Parmeswar (MA, MS, LPC, DCC), an MU alumnus and president-CEO of Positive Outcome Inc, a group of counsellors, therapists, tutors, and consultants, while speaking about cyberbullying. Parmeswar, a licensed family therapist from New Jersey, will be conducting a two-day workshop (Feb 9-10) in Mumbai with teachers, principals, and school counsellors on the 'web of silence' that we (they) build around the side effects of social media.
Cyberbullying has come a part and parcel of everyone's reality, especially students. They are the ones who are scrutinised by their peers and pressured by teachers to excel only in a linear academic pattern, without really learning to truly and genuinely care about the learning process. "I have been here for just three days and I've already read about two suicides. We find ourselves in the midst of a social crisis where so many kids are attempting suicide, using substances, and engaging in risky behaviour," said Parmeswar.
Running the rat race
According to her, parents are in their own rat race, while schools are heavily burdened with academic pressures, which prevent them from focusing on 'social learning'. "The kids are growing up to have a range of emotional problems that no one is really addressing. They can have a thousand friends on Facebook but not even one close friend who they can actually be themselves with. This is a universal phenomenon; when we see people struggling, we don't even notice, let alone think that it is our responsibility to care for one another. This is the web of silence that we are creating."
Speaking about her upcoming workshop, for which nearly 30 teachers and principals from schools across Mumbai have already registered, she added, "It is about understanding the world of social media and cyberbullying; it'll be an experimental workshop on how to engage with children and understand their world, while at the same time, teaching them to address this issue of social learning. We can't just expect children to excel in academic spheres without paying attention to their readiness to learn. There is a need to create a new generation of teachers who actually know what's going on with the kids in their everyday lives."
Parmeswar pointed out that we were dealing with a flawed system. "The difference in the West is that there are resources and alternatives, and an infrastructure that's readily available, whereas, in India, all the problems that these kids are facing have no infrastructural backing. There is drug abuse but not enough treatment programmes. There is so much anxiety and depression but not enough skilled professionals to deal with them. This is the need of the hour."
'Teachers to get kids' experience'
But how is this workshop any different than another cyberbullying workshop? "I will be providing more of actual tools and techniques to engage with these children; it is very practise-based. For example, teachers will undergo a process where they experience what the kids go through. I'm trying to get them (teachers) into that emotional space of being a 14-year-old and dealing with multiple pressures. These kids can access anything on their phones, and no one seems to genuinely care about it. One tends to miss the signs when they talk to the children only about education."
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