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The Internet’s Effect on Deep Thinking: Insights from iParent

Parenting in today’s digital age is undeniably challenging. With technology, the internet, and social media dominating our lives, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of notifications and updates. So how do we guide our children through the digital world’s maze without a map? Neha J Hiranandani‘s iParent is a friendly companion for parents navigating the complexities of raising kids in a digital age. Packed with practical advice and a dash of humor, it’s the go-to resource for fostering cyber-savvy kids without the stress.

Read this exclusive excerpt to know more!

iParent
iParent || Neha J Hiranandani

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I remember reading about the Flynn effect in college. Buried neck-deep in books and classes, it was heartening to read that improved access to nutrition and better schools had made humans smarter in the twentieth century. Perfect grades seemed more achievable—after all, we had all become collectively smarter! That buoyancy, however, lasted just a few short decades. As things stand, the world is experiencing a reversal of the Flynn effect, and global IQ scores have dropped precipitously by six points. The truth is, we’re all turning a bit doltish. As one expert puts it, ‘People are getting dumber. That’s not a judgment; it’s a global fact.’

 

Most of us experience this doltishness every day. It’s getting harder to remember the names of colleagues, words stay permanently suspended on the tips of our tongues, and really, who can remember anyone’s birthday anymore? The Internet has fundamentally altered the way we process information, and as a result, we’re all struggling to focus. Every time we go online, our brains get subtly rewired. And since we are online so much, our brains are constantly adapting to accommodate the Internet’s deluge of small, shallow fragments of information.

 

Nicholas Carr, one of the most influential thinkers of our times, Is the author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, which went on to become a Pulitzer Prize finalist. ‘I’m not thinking the way I used to think,’ says Carr. The Internet, he says, ‘is chipping away [the] capacity for concentration and contemplation.’ Online activity, especially when we’re restlessly ping ponging from one activity to another makes us lose focus. Jumping from text to email, opening one tab and then quickly clicking on another, switching frantically back and forth between news and notifications—all of this destroys the calm brain and creates a new kind of mind, one that becomes comfortable processing information in quick, fragmented bursts. The faster, the better.

 

As Carr’s book title implies, over time our brains lose the ability to go deep. We start living in the shallows. ‘Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now, I zip along the surface like a guy on a jetski,’ he says. Admittedly, living life on a jetski sounds like great fun but you are likely to encounter a few problems. With all that wind in your hair, salt in your eyes and the world whizzing by, it’s difficult to make thoughtful decisions. It’s tough to stop and deeply appreciate beauty on a jetski or to meaningfully engage with an intractable problem. Given that our circuitry is so malleable, the more we stay online, the more we train our brains to be distracted. We can rapidly process snippets of information, but sustained attention becomes massively challenging. The longer we are on the jetski, the more challenging it is to get off it.

 

It’s not just Carr; scores of experts agree that the human brain simply wasn’t built for the endless game of ping-pong tantalizingly offered by our phones. The consequences seem especially disturbing for iGen which is growing up with easy and immediate access to information which ultimately has an effect on how the kids function, both emotionally and otherwise. Experts suggest that this generation will have ‘a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes, a loss of patience and a lack of deep-thinking ability.’ Screenagers’ are not the only ones affected. Nine and ten-year-olds indulging in over two hours of screen time per day scored lower on thinking and language tests. Some kids saw a premature thinning of the cerebral cortex as they spent time on screens—their grey matter was disappearing.

 

Disappearing grey matter or not, it’s hard to stop! Regardless of which generation we belong to, none of us can stop pinging. Every notification, every distraction is a little dopamine nugget in disguise and it’s challenging to focus on something when you’re used to getting a reward hit every few seconds. Drunk on dopamine, we start liking the distractions. We seek them out. The more we seek them, the more we click and the more we click— bullseye!—the more accurately the algorithm can place irresistible links directly in our fields of vision. Think about the last time that you went to a shopping mall. You likely had a salesperson come up and ask you to try a product. It’s usually not a big deal because you’re likely to only encounter a couple of pushy salespeople per mall visit. But when you’re online, the push and pulls come at you from all directions!

 

‘Have you tried this new recipe?’ Potatoes, green onions and a touch of mustard.’

‘Are you looking to lose ten kilos in twenty days?’

‘Have you checked out the season’s hottest filter?’

‘Become a millionaire overnight. Join our mailing list for just Rs 199’

‘Join our community to always feel happy.’

‘Free shipping on this summer’s hottest perfume that will make you smell like Italian lemons.’

‘Are you bored? Lonely? Depressed?’ Here are fourteen essential oils that you need right now.’

‘Looking for love? There’s a big surprise waiting for you.’

‘Get discounted Diwali hampers when you order in March.’

 

The sales push doesn’t end because whether it’s essential oils or real estate, the algorithm knows what we want better than anyone else. So, we click on these irresistible links, breaking our attention, disrupting our concentration and creating an avalanche of lost focus, which in turn, overtaxes our brains. And wouldn’t you know it, an overtaxed brain finds distractions more distracting, and there it is: a self-perpetuating dependence loop. We click and lose focus, which makes us want to click all the more. Clickety-click we go all day, tappity tap we go all night, leaking data and losing focus all the while.

***

Get your copy of iParent by Neha J Hiranandani wherever books are sold.

Am I Doing This Right? Insights from Priyanka Chopra’s Mom in ‘The Parents I Met’

Ever wondered, “Am I getting this parenting gig right?” In Mansi Zaveri’s The Parents I Met, take a stroll through chats with successful parents, picking up timeless tips for navigating the tricky path of raising kids. This book is like a friendly guide, saying, “Hey, in the middle of life’s chaos, what matters most is your love and commitment to your kids.” It’s an easy read, full of stories and advice that any parent can relate to, giving you a bit of comfort and a lot of insights along the way.

 

The Parents I Met
The Parents I Met || Mansi Zaveri

 

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Initially, I had arranged to speak with Dr Madhu Chopra via Zoom, but after our conversation, I knew I had to meet her in person. She never made her career, marriage or the proper upbringing of her children a lower priority simply because she became a mother.  

 

Despite her initial doubts about whether her parenting practices from nearly three decades ago would still be relevant, she welcomed me with open arms and was happy to talk. Friendly as always, she paused to ask her assistant Zarin for a green tea in Gujarati, all the while considering which chai flavour would best prepare her for this exchange. She then took a sip and said,

 

‘Mansi, what was important is that I didn’t back down—that gave me immense confidence. That confidence emanates power and brings me respect from my kids even to this day. If they respect you, it becomes easy.’  

 

She has fond memories of working night shifts at the army hospital, which were always a family affair because she had to bring her two children along, Priyanka and her brother Siddharth. ‘I turned it into a game by telling Priyanka, “Mom’s on night duty, baby’s on night duty,” as she carried her toy backpack and squealed with excitement. I didn’t fall into the trap of feeling guilty because my work gave me immense joy. The guilt crept in only once when she talked back to my father and that made me wonder, “Is it because I am working?” Even the fancy well-planned tiffins of other kids who had stay-at-home moms couldn’t make me feel guilty as I sent the same tiffins every day, like a paratha roll or jam sandwich. I taught her to not compare these tiffins or feel deprived. Parenting is not a day’s job. It starts the day your baby is conceived and continues forever.’ 

 

I asked her if Priyanka had ever asked, ‘Why can’t you sit at home or why do you need to work?’ and she said, ‘No. She didn’t know any other way and took this as normal.’ Family was a huge support, with both sets of parents and relatives chipping in at every stage.  

 

Dr Chopra continued, ‘Both kids used to tag along. If mom had night duty, baby had night duty. She would pack her little bag to carry to the hospital because she knew she had to keep herself busy while I was away on duty. You see, we didn’t give them choices that didn’t exist.’ 

 

Dr Chopra then unapologetically admitted, ‘I am a great parent.’ To see a parent be so self-assured was refreshing. Especially when parents today second guess most of their decisions.  

 

When Priyanka was preparing for Miss India, her entire family pooled their resources to buy her new footwear, wardrobe and cosmetics. No one ever questioned who she was or why she would want to compete in a Miss India pageant. Some parents hope their children will follow in their footsteps and go into business with them or pursue a similar line of work, but Priyanka knew at the tender age of three that she did not want to become a doctor because she did not like the smell of hospitals and did not want to leave her child at home.’  

 

She added, ‘When your path is different from your kids, there is no tantrum and shouting but there is a conversation. You convince me or I convince you.’ The one time that we did push our wishes on a child who was a topper in her academics and extracurriculars, was when we asked her to sing and dance both. When her grades dipped, I backed off, but being a committed, competitive learner, she persevered. Her habit of seeking perfection in everything that she did was most evident when she helped her younger brother Siddharth learn his speech on Chacha Nehru. She corrected his work and sat all night rehearsing with him till he didn’t even miss a single word. 

 

She continued, ‘I think this is the temperament that has got her here and is keeping her here. Ours was a democratic house, and questions and curiosity were rewarded promptly. When Priyanka was in kindergarten and questioned why her name was missing from the name plate outside her house, her father, Dr Ashok Chopra, got it changed the next day and added “Priyanka Chopra-UKG”.’ 

 

Dr Chopra went on to say, ‘Dinner table conversations were animated ones, where you could pour your heart out and no one would be judged. No one raised their voices or banged plates—it was not allowed in my household. Our kids never saw us yell, fight or be violent—it started and ended in the bedroom, but even that was a discussion.’  

 

‘I was heartbroken when I sent her to boarding school at seven years old after she had talked back to my dad,’ she confessed, ‘but the end result of that decision was a polished, responsible pre-teen who could even parent me. She became so disciplined, much better than I could have ever done. Each leap of faith was made with my family as a safety net.’  

 

When I asked her if she had had any indication that Priyanka was exceptional before she turned eighteen, she said, ‘I knew my child was focused and never frivolous. She would make the most of every opportunity that was presented to her. You cannot be a great parent if you don’t have a receptive child.’ 

 

When I asked her how she managed to instil such a sense of hunger and determination in her children despite their privileged upbringing, she told me that teaching them to say ‘no’ was crucial, as was making them work for what they want.  

 

She said, ‘Don’t be afraid to be that “bad parent”. The word “no” carried great weight in the Chopra household. One parent’s “no” would never be followed by a “yes” from the other. Their “whys”, however, were never shunned but addressed with discussions and explanations of the consequences early on. My children knew from day one that their every action had a consequence and that would be theirs alone.’  

***

Intrigued to know more?

Get your copy of The Parents I Met by Mansi Zaveri wherever books are sold.

14 Life Rules Your Teen Should Know About

There are some things that children should be learning in school, but don’t and not all of them have to do with academics. As a modest back-to-school offering, here are some basic rules, for your kids, from Lina Ashar’s amazing guide through the complicated teen years – Drama Teen, that may not have found their way into the standard curriculum.
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In Drama Teen, Lina Ashar explores concepts from both sides of the fence. Helicopter parenting, parent–teen conflicts and ways to resolve them and the habits that lead to a successful life are among the topics discussed here. She also explores ways to minimize the pain and trauma the ‘drama-teen’ phase can cause both to the teens and their parents. Packed with practical advice, tips, what-not-to-dos and activities, Ashar expertly guides you to keep your cool through those complicated years.

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Lina Ashar is the chairperson of Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd (KKEL), a leading education chain, which has schools such as Kangaroo Kids, Billabong High International School, and its newest affiliate, Brainworks.
Get your copy of Drama Teen today!

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