Tips on child safety, real & virtual
"Why are boy's loos open?"
"I don't like being teased."
Calcutta: These were some of the concerns raised by students of Indus Valley World School at a safety seminar in Kala Kunj last week. Parents and students of classes VII, VIII and IX found out how vulnerable kids are as a psychiatrist, a top cop and some academics gave them a reality check.
"Children can, at times, be more helpless and vulnerable at home than in school. Sometimes they fail to communicate with their parents about an uncle, brother or aunt who has been harassing them," said Joseph Mathew, the director of Indus Valley World School.
Moderated by Sujata Sen, the CEO of NGO Future Hope, the session saw panelists - deputy commissioner (south-east division) Kalyan Mukherjee, director of Bee Books Esha Chatterjee and psychiatrist Sanjay Garg - discuss a range of issues from depression to the dangers of online gaming and the negative impact of social media.
"Parents often give phones and Internet access to their kids without sensitising them. We get cases of kids misusing phones, chatting with fake identities and being duped. Parents need to know technology better and what is harming their kids," said deputy commissioner Mukherjee.
The focus was on better communication between parents and children. "The best way to deal with social media is to be on social media. Parents must be aware of what is going on," Chatterjee said.
Garg agreed that parents cannot shy away from technology. "Gaming addiction is a problem. Data is cheaply available. Many kids play games meant for adults and they need to be supervised," he said.
The psychiatrist asked parents to look out for signs of irritability and stress in children. "Don't just be a friend to your kids, be a parent too. If they are too withdrawn, refuse to communicate with anyone and are cranky, don't think it is a passing phase...," he said.
The panelists also discussed how social media can take a toll on mental health and lead to depression. "Talk to your child about depression. A child must trust a parent to open up," Chatterjee said.
Amitav Barua, father of a Class VII boy, was there for tips on how to deal with his growing son. "I wonder if he is telling us everything. It was good to know how I can protect him better," he said.
Another parent, Rohit Singh, said he keeps his son, who studies in Class VII, away from cellphones and Internet.