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If a recent survey is to be believed, Indian teensare seriously bad-ass. They cheat in school, smoke, drink, try drugs and are rather promiscuous. To make matters worse, they won’t discuss any of this with their parents. And why would they, ask experts, when they have access to any information they need at their fingertips.
According to student counsellor Romila Rodrigues, urban youngsters with working parents spend more time with their cellphones and laptops than they do with their parents. “Youngsters today grow up in a world where information is freely available. There are books, the Internet and satellite television that they have easy access to. If we don’t teach them about the cons of substance abuse and casual sex, they’ll get information from other sources, which may be convoluted,” says Romila.
And the problem with young people having sex is that most often, they don’t know the consequences. “Though a lot of adolescents experience some form of physical intimacy early on, a majority of them do not know about the effects and consequences of sex. In most cases, they are not even well-informed about the act itself,” says Rekha G, branch manager of the Family Planning Association. Her view is endorsed by Dr Vinod Chebbi, sex and marriage therapist. “Adolescents think they are too young to get pregnant, but old enough to have sex. But the problem is that they are just satisfying their curiosity,” he says.
With contraceptives available over the counter, youngsters have a false sense of security, adds Rekha. “And when a period is missed, they go into denial and think it’s the hormones or stress that’s causing the missed period. By the time they realise what it actually is, it’s too late,” adds Dr Chebbi. But even if it’s too late, youngsters these days have a solution. “What’s worrying is that there’s a growing lack of morality among youngsters, especially when it comes to teen pregnancies. If a girl does fall pregnant, she gets an over-the-counter drug to terminate the pregnancy or goes to a shady clinic to get it medically terminated. And the parents of the girl remain oblivious to what’s happening,” says Romila.
And if that’s the state of teenagers today, the parents are to blame, feel experts. “Sex education is still frowned upon in this country and the anatomical approach to the subject that was practised in schools is detrimental – telling them how and when to do it is not the key. Parents also shy away from broaching the subject and expect teachers to handle it and vice-versa. That’s when ill-informed peers and siblings step in,” adds Dr Chebbi.
The other issue, says Romila, is that parents take pride in ensuring that their children are kitted with the latest and most hi-tech gizmos and ample pocket money. “Even if a teen doesn’t want to try hard-core drugs or alcohol, peer pressure forces him/her to at least try them, even if it is a milder version. Information about drugs is available on Net-enabled cellphones or laptops. Money is not a problem for an urban teenager, whose parents use it to compensate for the lack of quality time spent together,” she says.
What parents and society at large should realise is that these activities of teenagers are no longer secrets, adds counsellor Kavitha Michael. “It’s considered uncool if you aren’t up to speed with the rest of your peers. Sex, drugs, alcohol are all part of the growing-up process now,” she signs off.