How can we improve resilience in youngsters?
In the last few months, we have seen a number of disturbing news coming from our campuses – students suicide, students taking arms to fight with professors and college authorities, clash with police, students using innovative cheating techniques in exams who were caught redhanded, college magazines carrying disturbing display of artistic features supporting dubious attitudes and behaviours. All this makes us think that something is amiss on our campuses and I heard many people shocked and anxious about the way our youth is progressing. Some parents I talked to prefer to send their children to universities outside of India to ensure they are away from such influences and study well and develop good habits.
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Leaders of the academic community seem to be unperturbed by these developments. For them, the campuses were always like this – a boiling pot of soup with all such ingredients. Sometimes you get an exceptionally tasty recipe coming out of it and some years go really bad with the environmental factors and external influences making it sour and steamy. Not much thought and study has gone to improve this basic knitting unit of the future cultural fabric of society. It is left to the play of nature and social interplay to shape up our future society. Even though a thorough analysis of this scenario to come up with any meaningful interventions or strategy to invigorate this perpetual flux is beyond the remit of this article, I would list down a couple of action items to improve this to good. It could start with what others are doing and how that is helping them. If any such acts are helping them, then it may be worth giving it a try in our institutions as well.
Let’s take a close look at how the behaviour of our youth has changed over the years. How their routines, cultural activities, their priorities in life, their motivation to do various activities, their means to achieve goals and how they find pleasure from various activities, etc all could lead us to find ways to improve the situation. Let’s examine a few of this generally on a very high level without any rational study based on known behavioral theories and science.3 action items to improve life skills of our youth Click To Tweet
Let’s take a look at the routines of today’s youth and compare that with how the same was done maybe 20 years back. An engineering student of the 90s would ideally be waking up at 8, so do the students today, do his daily routines and get in the class by 9:30 or so. So does most of the students today also. They both follow the same class routine of attending the class, participate in discussions, takes the exams, socialize, laugh, talk and life go the same way. So, what is different. One noticeable difference is the quality of time they spend at each activity.
The students of the 90s had only one thing to do at any point of time- they either talk, read, listen, learn, laugh, whatever. They had undivided attention to what they were doing at that moment. Now, look at today’s children. When they are talking to you, they are busy checking their messages in WhatsApp or Telegram. When they are busy reading a book, they are busy surging the message or enjoy a meme or troll. When they socialize by sitting together with a group, instead of doing that fully engaged in what they do today is checking their messages, reading some movie reviews, searching for the recent episode of a popular serial, surfing through the photos someone shared in dropbox or the like. These days, no activity, however important, interesting or critical it be, gets undivided attention for the youth.
Another major area where huge change has come in today’s youth is in their physical activities. During the 90s and even during the early 2000s, people used to go out and play some interesting games or activities. When it was cricket season, cricket matches were happening at all nook and corners of the country, when it was world cup football year, then there were football tournaments happening all over the place. Even if there was no specific competition in place, youth were playing and were engaged in physical activities a lot. Compare that with these days, where competition and matches happen on smartphone screens and competition apps. Instead of playing a match in ground, the matches occur in mobile apps, even with multiplayer teams joining online and playing together. Millions of people spend long hours playing PUBG online. The lack of physical exercise results in increased mood disorder and set in depression by the lack of hormones produced during physical activities. It is proven that endorphin, a hormone produced during physical activity triggers a positive feeling for the body.
The hug, laugh, cuddle, fun and all such emotions occur in smartphone screens these days which deprive them of oxytocin, which reduces stress and improves one’s well being. During the time of the previous generation of youngsters, they used to hug, laugh, and care, one to one, face to face instead of communicating it through smartphone screens. This helped them to develop the resilience and life skills required to face challenges and approach life with a positive attitude. The life skill lessons which they experienced and the coping skills they developed during their growing years help one to develop new ways of thinking to come up with solutions, take responsibility for one’s actions and not blame others, build confidence in spoken skills and collaborative group work.
To cut a long story short, it’s critical to develop life skills for a healthy living. A physically and mentally healthy individual contributes more to society by creative thinking, collaborative group effort and responsible actions which is the need of the hour to avoid calamity in environmental issues and to develop a prosperous future.