An often overlooked social menace eating away into the fabric of contemporary Nigerian society, is the waning influence of parents over their wards. Children are growing up lately in a world utterly different from the world we used to know and a world changing with increasing rage, and many parents finds themselves at their wits end on how to tighten the moral and cultural noose around their wards.
In an age of mobile telephony; social media; the internet; Reality TV; You Tube; a booming entertainment industry dishing out illicit products; warts and all, parents are increasingly wielding the shorter end of the stick in terms of moral influence they have over their children and are fastly losing ground to the obtrusive influence of society funneled through the media, both new and old alike.
And so whereas the occasion of Children’s Day affords us an opportunity to celebrate children within childhood and youth, it is meet that we reassess once again, the quality of parenting that the children of this age and time are receiving. This is to find out whether we are actually in control of our wards, morally, socially, spiritually, psychologically and otherwise at a very critical moment of their lives.
I watched with trepidation recently the MTN Nigeria “perfect gift for your children” commercials which invited parents to buy a smart phone worth N 13, 000 for their wards to enjoy 3 months of data bonus. Apparently, a smart phone in the estimation of the influential telecomm giant, was the perfect gift for a child of say, 9, 10, 03 13 years. I am told many Nigerian parents fell for this, and the telecom outfit smiled to the bank from the commercial extravaganza.
Now, that supposed promo helps to put in context the extent to which many parents in Nigeria and elsewhere, are losing out on the control of their wards. It accentuates the rather cavalier attitude of parents to the upbringing of their wards hence the exploitation of this worrisome attitude by the business community to make rain. And we would not blame them, as there is no morality in trade and commerce.
I learnt recently to my befuddlement that many students in the primary and secondary schools between the ages of 9 and 14 are all owners of smart phones ( perhaps “perfect gifts” from their parents), and have been expending data clicking away their lives on ‘censored’ websites that add nothing to their all round development. Being incapable of any serious or rigorous thought at this very tender stage of their lives as has been proven by psychological science, these young lads spend time binging on pornographic contents that tend to feed the curiosity of the sudden discovery of their sexuality and the biological language of their bodies.
At this stage of life when these young ones ordinarily should spend time making the rounds on Shakespeare, Achebe, Ekwensi, Emecheta to keep the list short, in order to develop their literary and cognitive alertness, resort to musical sites to download poorly incubated sounds mistaken for artistic works become the object of choice. Many of these kids unfortunately have since become “science students” even without having lab coats, on account of undue exposure to a so-called entertainment industry that has elevated moral decadence to a craft.
At a time when extra-marital childbirth has become too fashionable and coming from a segment of the society that play role models to our wards; at a time when a young man who goes on National, nay global TV to engage in illicit sexual trade is honored by a certain state governor and decorated with the ‘epaulets’ of an education ambassador even when the showpiece struggles for educational utility; at a time when illicit show of ill-gotten wealth has become a rule of thumb made popular by the hush-puppies of this world; and all these in the full glare of our wards, we cannot help but shudder at the thought of what could be the multiplier effect on the minds of these young ones.
And so, it is all of these that parents on this occasion of the Children’s Day, must reflect upon to reassess themselves on how they have been faring in keeping their wards at arm’s length of this societal influence. That said, it must be conceded that never has the problem of bringing up a child been so complex and difficult as it is today. In a period of harsh economic reality that has seen many parents relegate their bounding duties of the psychological, social, moral and spiritual growth of the child to nannies, house-helps and care-givers all in a bid to meet up with financial needs of their wards, society has found itself grappling with the opportunity cost of the all round growth and development of the child that is often compromised in the mix.
But even then, the reality of the times should be the more reason why parents especially younger ones must be proactive in order not to lose their wards to the misleading standard often set by the media and entertainment industry. A sure way to start, is to monitor the access of their wards to smart phones and the T.V. as the twin tools of the disorientation of the young. One would have thought that interest groups in the all round growth and development of the child would have risen up in condemnation of the MTN commercials for being a tacit accomplice in the erosion of the moral codes of the young. For I am still struggling to wrap my head around how a smart phone could be the “perfect gift” for a child of say 14 years or thereabout.
Yes, it could be argued that we live in an age of information and technology, but such argument overlook the virtue of doing right things at the right time. We do not usually feed a new born, with a dish of yam porridge simply because they are hungry. As a father, I’d think that availing my wards everything from Chike and the River to Eze Goes to School; Things Fall Apart to I’ll Marry When I Want; Beggars Strike to Last Duty; The gods are Not to Blame down to This is Our Chance”, to name a few, would be the perfect gift for my child as against a smart phone. Not for a child still struggling to master his or her arithmetic table or one preparing for their mid-term examinations. That would be shabby parenting at the least.
The MTN commercials therefore is an evidence of how the influential media briefed by mercantilist interests utilize the Hypodermic Needle Theory of mass communication to distort long held societal values and moral codes all in a bid to make sales and grow their balance sheets as is true of every capitalist venture. Indeed nothing can be ridiculous than to trade a child’s all round development for 3 months of free data bundle.
On this occasion of the Children’s Day celebration 2018 therefore, parents must grid their loins and take the parenting of their wards even more serious. We live in an increasingly fast society spinning at a supersonic speed where every poor error of judgment made on the development of a child may not be repaired. Too many a Nigerian parent must look with askance at the duo of the media and entertainment industry─capitalist demagogueries of sorts who are out to steal the innocence of their wards for economic greed.
It was the 35th president of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) who once observed that “a child miseducated, is a child lost”. But even more instructive are the words of scripture thus, train up a child in the way he should go, and when he grows up he’ll never depart from it.
Happy Children’s Day.
The writer, a legal practitioner and a public interest commentator wrote in from Lagos. Comments and reaction to email@example.com.