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Children participate in a storytelling session at a bookstore in Matraman, Central Jakarta. JP/Jerry Adiguna
The risks of television and Internet may turn some parents into Tiger Moms.
The term is coined from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the popular book written by Yale University law professor Amy Chua that compares discipline by Chinese parents to the lax discipline of those in the US.
In a broader sense, the media may prompt parents to become strict and over-controlling about all of their children’s activities.
“I’m not the type of person who can forbid others. So, instead of prohibiting our kids from watching certain programs on TV, my husband and I decided not to have a TV in our home.
“I think it’s easiest than saying ‘No’,” Niken Suryatmini, a mother of two, lightly shared her experience with The Jakarta Post recently in developing a suitable home environment for her children.
Niken said that she preferred her kids to rely on books to learn about things. “But we also provide them with computers and Internet access, so they can download anything they need to know, or play DVDs for entertainment.”
The 42-year-old said that she had a library at home, a place where she and her children sought knowledge.
“We have an encyclopedia collection. So, if my kids ask random things, we can just go to the library to find the answer,” said Niken, adding that she and her husband encouraged their children to discuss anything with them, including sexual issues.
She and her husband are willing to discuss many issues with their children. Further concerns remain as there is relatively relaxed control from the government.
The government has issued the 1999 Telecommunication Law, the 2002 Broadcasting Law and the 2008 Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law to regulate broadcast media.
The broadcasting and ITE laws have strict rules on decency norms and violence, which can be used to protect young people from inappropriate content.
“We indeed have the KPI [Indonesian Broadcasting Commission, TV watchdog]. But I think so far the commission’s work has been ineffective because it can’t hand out harsh punishment,” said Boby Guntarto, co-founder of the Children’s Media Development Foundation (YPMA), referring to KPI’s inability to ban TV programs.
In terms of books, the government only has Ministerial Decree No. 2/2008 on books as guidance on the production of school textbooks.
Education and Culture Ministry spokesman Ibnu Hamad confirmed that the government did not have particular guidance for non-textbook literature.
Child psychologist Seto Mulyadi said that the personality of a person was formed by his or her environment, both in the physical and virtual worlds.
“Young people’s brains have the ability to absorb many things, which later on can influence their characters,” he said. “If a child watches a TV program that is full of violence, for example, the content will remain in his or her subconscious.
“When he or she grows up and encounters a trigger, this person’s emotions can explode. Such a situation is a real danger for young people,” he added.
Donny Budhi Utoyo, a researcher from ICT Watch, said the only way to protect children was to build strong bonds with them.
As a father with a son, he said that parents don’t have to be Internet savvy or gadget experts to communicate with children, who are more fluent in using the technology.
“Children nowadays are ‘digital natives’, who were born during the boom in information devices and the Internet. Meanwhile, parents are ‘digital migrants’, meaning that they were born without the variety of technology, but now they have to learn,” he said.
Donny said parents should let their children explore.
“Our duty is to accompany and guide them, not make restrictions.”
Donny said the more parents say “No” to their children, the more curious they will be.
Curious children, he said, will try to fulfill their need in any way. If they cannot get it at home, they will look for it outside.
Another IT expert, Onno W. Purbo, agrees that parents should be more relaxed.
“Please be familiar with your children. Talk with them; be their friend.”
Safe Internet guide
• Place the computer in living room or any open area. If necessary, write down rules and time limitation, and place them next to the computer.
• Learn Internet basics and information provided on it with other family members. The trick also works well in giving them the best searching way on the Internet, and how to avoid negative information.
• Warn family members not to respond to any email, private chat or open attachments from strangers.
• Warn family members to always be careful in exposing their individual identities — including home/school addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, passwords — to strangers, or while registering personal websites, blogs or social media.
• Ask children to close websites that contain inappropriate content. Persuade them to always tell about and share anything they see on the Internet with parents.
• Warn children to always avoid face-to-face meetings with new acquaintances from the Internet. If they insist on meeting their virtual friends, tell them to have the meeting at a public place and with adult supervision.