It is an addiction with far-reaching negative effects.
I remember my childhood days when my siblings and I would surround our father in the evenings to listen to folktales that had passed on through generations.
It included stories from Wotalhome, a place known for its humour.
Other stories included Alif Laila – The Arabian Nights – Kashmiri stories like Haba Khatoon, Heemal Nagrai, Aknandun and fairytales, like Panchtantra stories, Zainul Abideen, Mahadev Bisht etc that besides enthralling us also gave us a sense of belonging to our place.
These storytelling sessions developed in us a flavor for literature.
We loved frequent power outages because it meant prolonged sessions of fun.
Kashmir has a long tradition of storytelling. My grandfather and great-grandfather would invite professional raconteurs and organize long sittings of storytelling over cups of nunchai and kehwa. This was commonplace among affluent families of Kashmir.
Also, these professional storytellers would earn their livelihood by traveling from place to place narrating folklores and tales.
But, today these folktales have lost audience to the power of internet, television, smart phones and social media. From the 90’s till the pre-Covid era, children were head over heels into animations and cartoon shows. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that cartoon shows gained attention on TV, and then the trend saw an upsurge by the introduction of more channels.
Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney were some of the more prominent ones. The millennial generation grew up watching classical cartoons like Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Dastardly & Muttley, the original Pokémon, Top Cat, Drake & Josh, etcetera, while parents and grandparents enjoyed watching them as well. The Simpsons still holds a special place in our memories. These cartoon shows had imagination, action, adventure and creativity. Tom and Jerry are still fun to watch. The introduction of Japanese cartoons changed the way we viewed cartoons. Children started loving Shinchan, Doremon,Pokemon etc. It didn’t take long for India to realize the potential of cartoon shows and soon we saw Bheem, Motu Patlu and many more that kept our children glued to the television for hours on end.
Doremon is one of the most popular Japanese cartoons that is loved by kids the world over. It is a fine example of the power of Japanese Anime
Doremon is the dream gadget of children who think he solves all their problems. The lazy and dull boy Nobita still stands out as a hero for many children, who thought it was okay to not study and take help from a sweet girl Shuzuka, who is Nobita’s best friend.
Cartoons help children develop imagination, though, its negative impact may be that children can stay in the imaginary world for a long interval. Cartoons are an important teaching part of the children’s leisure activities and have an impact on their development. In one of the studies, American Pediatric Academy experts found that children who watch cruel cartoon characters are becoming aggressive, disobedient, cruel and angry. As a result, in the US, the most famous cartoon Shinchan caused large protests because parents complained that their children would imitate Shinchan, the main character, and his unruly behavior.
Experts suggest that children should be allowed to watch cartoons, however, to protect them from negative effects, parents are advised to follow which shows the kids are watching and for how many hours.
Children enjoy watching cartoons not just because it appeals their imagination, but also because it makes them happy. No matter how much they imitate their peers’ behavior, they continue to experiment and learn during the process.
However, the the Covid era changed everything. It altered the lives of children to a catastrophic extent. The closure of schools led to online learning. Many researches and studies that were carried on children documented an increase, during the pandemic, in smartphone functions like telephone calls, videos, online chats, and social network. Online learning led to prolonged screen time resulting, in turn, to a greater possibility of distraction. Children who were once avid watchers of cartoons on TV and would do anything just to have a glimpse of their favourite cartoons were accidentally pushed to a new medium – social media – which not only decreased their attention span but also made them impatient in their day to day affairs. Covid made it mandatory for every child to have a smart phone in their hands. My helper at home had to sell her gold bangle to get her daughter a smart phone for online classes. With this, the traditional TV took a backseat, so did the cartoons. The arrival of smart phones made TV a boring affair for our kids. I’ve observed it personally. My 11-year-old son who once remained hooked to cartoons on TV now finds smartphone a better choice to watch videos and other stuff online. When I enquired from my friends and relatives, their story wasn’t different. Children find social media and other games more interesting rather than watching cartoon. Since they have free mobile access to internet, social media seems more appealing to them than cartoon shows.
Earlier it was the desktop, then the laptop, and now it’s the palmtop. These are more convenient than any technology you can imagine. Therefore, it makes sense for our children to become addicted to it and forget about their favorite cartoon shows that have to pass through numerous hassles before they can turn on the TV. For example, asking permission from elders, watching at specific times. Using only one TV for the entire family would make it nearly impossible for children to watch them as per their convenience.
As a result, watching cartoons became a tedious affair for children.
On the other hand, smartphones allow them to binge-watch, have easy access to their favorite content, maintain privacy, etc. There is 24-hour access to OTT (over the top) media and social media. One cannot sit and watch hours-long cartoon episodes while there are other sources of entertainment, especially social media reels only a finger touch away. One of the students from DPS Budgam said that cartoons are a second choice for most of them now. One student said that reels on Instagram and Meta, for example, are a good medium of entertainment and they’re very short and you can watch plenty without disturbing your family.
Ask any child, a grown up or a teenager about Kashmiri folklore or folktales, they’re clueless. Time is not far away when you would ask children about their favourite cartoon shows only to know they don’t know much about them.
According to a post-Covid survey carried out on the Italian children, ‘‘smartphone addiction became more frequent in comparison with the pre-epidemic period.” The survey says that the overuse of smartphone may have many negative effects. It may cause neuropsychological and social problems, such as depression, eating and anxiety disorders, low self-confidence, stress, insecurity and solitude, which adversely affect children’s and adolescents’ development and construction of identity. School performances may also be negatively influenced by inappropriate use of smartphones, which may lead young people to spend their time unproductively, lose concentration power and have a more superficial approach to learning.