A lot of people on this earth, and if youŕe reading this, it would include you,  are having to  grapple with the issue of ‘screen time´ and in many instances itś addiction. This though is not a new phenomenon and  has been happening since the advent of television. However, television, was & is nothing like the Internet.

Hence it can be argued that the main driver screen time addiction is the internet.

There is also a great deal of anxiety about the time spend by children on mobile devices and the resultant effect on their behavior and psyche. The same holds true for adults as well.

¨The internet is also in large part inextricable from life’s pleasures: our friends, our families, our communities, our pursuits of happiness, and—sometimes, if we’re lucky— our work. The internet has moved seamlessly into the interstices of this situation, redistributing our minimum of free time into unsatisfying micro-installments, spread throughout the day. In the absence of time to physically and politically engage with our community the way many of us want to, the internet provides a cheap substitute: it gives us brief moments of pleasure and connection, tied up in the opportunity to constantly listen and speak.¨

¨We exhibit classic reward-seeking lab-rat behavior, the sort that’s observed when lab rats are put in front of an unpredictable food dispenser. Rats will eventually stop pressing the lever if their device dispenses food regularly or not at all. But if the lever’s rewards are rare and irregular, the rats will never stop pressing it. In other words, it is essential that social media is mostly unsatisfying. That is what keeps us scrolling, scrolling, pressing our lever over and over in the hopes of getting some fleeting sensation—some momentary rush of recognition, flattery, or rage.¨ –  Jio Tolentino

Most people, i would like to believe,  have perhaps worked out a way to deal with this phenomenon of screen time. If not, they are sailing blissfully towards a post human horizon. No one can say what is in store, except that one hopes that itś not land of proto humans.

However, it is a very valid concern about the effect of Internet on children- not negative , but the way its rewiring them and making them distant from social interactions and reality. This coupled with the existential gated communities and homogeneous groupings in schools and other institutions where children participate, have ensured that their is very little dialogue in diversity and understanding of each other’s conditions, positions and thoughts.

Some research data indicate that most children and young adults tend to use internet for information and communication, however my experience has been that they are largely playing games and that is does make them irritable and reduces their attention span.

One optimistic and rather positive take on screen gazing by children and young adults is that our response towards it is largely the effect of our misunderstanding.

“The anxiety about screens is probably triggered because we adults are forced to spend more time than we would wish to looking at them, so we naturally fear for what it is doing to a child’s brain.”

“Only those who are so fortunate that they can take or leave the utility of modern gadgets can afford to moralise¨ – Don’t fall for the moral panic over children’s screen time,

However. more than the concern for screen time, which has been a hot topic of debate since the advent of television , is the narrative which has been circulated aimed at children through the various channels of entertainment including popular cinema.

Children have become one of the mot important consumer group in the society. Particularly children from the higher income brackets are for obvious reasons, driving force in deciding the fate of various ‘educational’ products and services on offer. They have started to have a stronger say on what they should be consuming and this has had a significant impact in the relationship they share with parents, teachers and institutions ( now mostly reduced to shops and businesses)  catering to their whims and need of entertainment.

Access to Internet on mobile phones has now made it easier to the businesses to reach out to these young customers. The privacy of consuming content on Internet which is far more individualistic than say Television was , has managed to cut off the intermediary – i.e the parent and allowed the businesses and (also political ideological positions) to have a direct relationship with the children and hence effectively mold them into lifelong consumers of their goods, services and ideology. The world is indeed moving to a beat and the control over capital and consciousness is far greater than ever before.

Children and young people are usually among the earliest and most enthusiastic users of information and communication technologies, and households with children lead the diffusion process. It is often argued that children are more flexible, creative users than adults, having fewer established routines or habits and being oriented toward innovation and change. As young people make the transition from their family of origin toward a wider peer culture, they find that the media offer a key resource for constructing their identity and for mediating social relationships. Does this live up to the popular rhetoric regarding youthful ‘cyberkids’ (Facer & Furlong, 2001) or ‘the digital generation’(Buckingham, 2006; Tapscott, 1997)?

A point to reflect upon is the criticism about the content of mass entertainment industry offering s aimed for children.

It is well reflected in children films, games and popular literature – a certain trend which channels their perspective towards  perfect beauty, harmony and absolute strength over everything else. Anything else has been rendered invisible hence ignorable and should be cause of great discontent.

” In order to infuse children’s film with adult appeal, most movies now feature a drawn-out romantic love story, sexual tension, intense drama, and a raised level of violence” – Fascism and Family Entertainment, Florentine Strzelczyk

The blueprint for the making of a consumptive pattern and  future leaders who will pay obeisance to that one great leadership (or leader) to sustain and proliferate the cultural ambitions of the politico- corporate establishment is well entrenched in the in the “blood of language through the capillaries of syntax in the remotest limbs”

One of radically alarmist criticism of the recent children blockbuster – ¨Lion King” provides an interesting point of discussion about the kind of narrative which enforces the stereotypes and establishes the hierarchy of the dominant class over the other.

“The Lion King” offers us fascist ideology writ large….It introduces us to a society where the weak have learned to worship at the feet of the strong.

Doubling down on Disney’s historical obsession with patriarchal monarchies, it places the audience’s point of view squarely with the autocratic lions, whose Pride Rock literally looks down upon all of society’s weaker groups — a kind of Trump Tower of the African savanna. When grand patriarch Mufasa explains patiently to his son how this division of power works, he emphasizes that the king must maintain balance in their kingdom. This seems acceptable when we think about the environment, where we associate “balance” with sustainability. But when we consider that he’s really explaining to his heir why the natural order makes it normal for kings to devour the peasants, the lions’ perspective feels a lot more unsettling.

Bad as it is that the powerful are presented as inherently better than all other species, things get substantially worse once the hyenas are introduced. With the lions standing in for the ruling class, and the “good” herbivores embodying society’s decent, law-abiding citizens, the hyenas transparently represent the black, brown and disabled bodies that are forcefully excluded from this hierarchical society. Noticeably marked by their ethnically coded “street” accents, the hyenas blatantly symbolize racist and anti-Semitic stereotypes of “verminous” groups that form a threat to society

As critic Matt Roth has written, the movie thereby idolizes bullies by mythologizing the most brutal social principles: “Only the strong and the beautiful triumph, and the powerless survive only by serving the strong.” – Dan Hassler-Forest (‘The Lion King’ is a fascistic story. No remake can change that)

It is worth mentioning here the response to the essay, which perhaps to balance a very pessimistic outlook with a general response of people who watched and adored the film.

  • sad to see that insane, professionally offended Marxist freak shows like this writer existed in the 90s as well.
  • Who the fuck is going to read all of that, Lion King was a great movie though!
  •  I think they are reading too deep into the lion king.
  • Indeed. Stalin would have retweeted this or liked it on facebook. After all “Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism.”, so Disney can’t be far.
  • I mean it’s not really fascist as much as it has some minor segregationist themes advocating divine right, but cool hot take I guess.

It is not surprising that a (contrarian) perspective getting crushed by a tsunami of internet induced self righteous responses.

However at the same time the alarmist take of on children film does provide us a window to consider two conceptions of childhood.

¨two competing conceptions of childhood. On one view, children are seen as vulnerable, undergoing a crucial but fragile process of cognitive and social development to which the internet tends to pose a risk by introducing potential harms into the social conditions for development, necessitating in turn a protectionist regulatory environment.

On the contrary view, children are seen as competent and creative agents in their own right whose “media – savvy” skills tend to be underestimated by the adults around them, the consequence being that society may fail to provide a sufficiently rich environment for them¨

It is perhaps naive to expect that children would pass through this world unscathed by demands and impressions of the political economy, whose spaces, has and will always be short of the utopia which some seek.

But the fact is that the avoidance of dystopia is the reason behind all resistance, and history has amply shown , that this space is well within reach of individuals and societies.

The question is if alternative form of engagements and entertainment is to be made accessible to children in order to create the sufficiently ´rich environment´, then the tools for the production and dissemination for the same are easily available. Perhaps not at the scale of Disney – which wasn´t build in a day.

It could be argued that very few of the critics & intellectuals of the current paradigm, take the responsibility upon themselves to create an alternative model .

This of course doesn’t make the contraraian viewpoints, which are equally central to the any less important in a discourse which can shape the future of contents and in fact grateful for the gift of their critical thought and insight which itself is a formidable contribution towards seeking an equilibrium.

The role of arts in in various avatars as a space- time of resistance and  a window which opens up the world view of the child beyond the narrative spun by the mass entertainment industry is significant. Engagement in art activities brings about a tangible change in the way the childś, perspective, being and presence shapes up. The mimicking of the form, tropes and impulses from the mass entertainment staple does limit greatly the freedom of the body- mind of the child – hence also our imagination and critical thinking.

Sudipta Dawn

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