'TV stimulating aggression among kids

Call it stress in school or undemocratic parenting at home, more and more children, specially adolescents, are being pushed to the edge.

Forty eight hours after a class IX student stabbed his teacher in Chennai, triggering shock and outrage across India, child psychiatrists say the message being drilled into them that life is a competitive sport, is turning the joy of learning at school into a struggle to excel for these children.

Several questions are being raised following the Chennai murder: Was the student lonely? Did his parents ever try to listen to him? Was the teacher excessively inconsiderate towards him? Could TV have played a role in pushing him to commit such an act?

Dr Jitendra Nagpal, senior consultant at the Institute of Mental Health and Lifeskills at Moolchand Hospital, said parents should not forget that the first school for any child is his family. Children brought up in happy and communicating families have been seen to be less aggressive, less defiant and not hostile.

"I don't agree with what the boy in Chennai did. But such cases of adolescent aggression are becoming common. We see 10 such patients every week," Dr Nagpal said.

He added, "Several reasons could be causing this. Aggression in children is frustrations due to lack of communication both within the family and school, leading them to feel emotional deprivation. Children are the product of the environment they spend time in and lack of emotional nourishment in that, can cause serious harm."

So can parents help do? "Bonding with real time communication with their children, democratic parenting by allowing children in the family to express their opinion, seeing the world through their kids and not imposing their dreams on them can really help," Dr Nagpal added.

Doctors say parents and teachers should look out for warning signs. Having nightmares is a common response to stress among children. Trouble concentrating on homework, physical or verbal aggression like screaming or having difficulty completing tasks that require patience should be addressed. Having temper tantrums or being continuously disobedient is also important signs to watch out for.

According to Dr Samir Parekh from Max Hospital, TV is playing a major role in stimulating aggression among youngsters. On an average, children are believed to be watching four hours of TV daily and it can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behaviour. Unfortunately, much of today's TV programming is violent with soap operas delving mostly in family politics and conspiracy.

Dr Parekh said, "Reality shows, abusive language and meanness besides violence in even cartoons or video games leads to the child becoming desensitized thereby suffering from distortion of reality. They feel aggression will be celebrated like it is on TV and they can get away with it."

Experts say a child sitting with parents and watching such soap operas can end up believing in the idea of a fragmented family. The kid, then, fails to trust.

Several studies on the effects of TV and video game violence on children have found that children may gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems and identify with certain characters, victims or aggressors.

"Extensive viewing of television violence causes greater aggressiveness," Dr Parekh added.

Dr Parekh explained that observational learning or the impact of TV violence could be immediately evident in the child's behaviour or may surface years later. Parents can protect children from excessive TV violence "pay attention to the programmes their children are watching, set limits on the amount of time they spend on watching TV and don't have a TV in

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