Parenting young minds in Net era

Once upon a long time, in a far distant past, as a child, I used to pretend-play the role of a teacher. I would lock myself in a room, scribble on a makeshift blackboard and pretend I was giving a lesson to a classroom filled with young kids.

Once upon a long time, in a far distant past, as a child, I used to pretend-play the role of a teacher. I would lock myself in a room, scribble on a makeshift blackboard and pretend I was giving a lesson to a classroom filled with young kids.

I was very drawn to the idea of helping to mold and shape young minds as they transition through the different phases of life. And the thought of having to find creative answers to questions an inquisitive mind had to ask was fascinating and extremely appealing to me.

But somehow, along the way, my aspiration to be an inspiration to society's young generation faded away into oblivion--especially when I realized that some young minds had the tendency to turn into wailing hyenas loud enough to send any eardrum running for cover.

It wasn't until only recently, over a conversation about parenting, that I was reminded about how I was once so eager to play a role in nurturing young minds.

This mother of a 12-year-old was relating how it's proving tougher to bring up a child with good civic ethics, and at the same time, to have a free mind that's unafraid to be inquisitive--even if it sometimes means having to ask difficult questions.

She's finding it increasingly difficult to explain to her child why it's important to strike a balance between having a free mind and conforming to local societal practices. Her child recently had a run-in at his school over what was deemed to be an attempt to "question authority", when he was simply trying to understand why things are done in a certain way.

It occurred to me only then that in this post-Internet era, parents must be facing new challenges that their predecessors never had to deal with. The usual risks aside, such as pedophiles who lurk around online forums in search of young victims, it struck me that parents today also have to guide their offspring how to taper their emotions, especially when expressing them online.

The Internet offers a vast and almost limitless amount of information that previous generations never had access to before. Answers to questions that teachers and parents deemed "inappropriate" to discuss openly can now be easily accessed via the Web, and from a blogosphere of vociferous individuals eager to share opinions and exchange ideas.

Thanks to the Internet, parents today can no longer assume they can stop their child from discussing sensitive topics simply by dismissing them. And that could prove an increasing challenge, especially when you read headlines of governments contemplating moves to implement more controls on Web content and bloggers being incarcerated for making inappropriate remarks.

As more governments recognize the Internet as perhaps the world's greatest information tool, more may feel the inclination to increase censorship and attempt to curb access to some of this information.

It's important that parents encourage their child to be inquisitive, to ask questions and not be afraid to think outside the box. I think these are key ingredients to nurturing young minds that can grow up with the potential to be creative and develop future innovative technologies.

But, at the same time, parents have to worry about cultivating an offspring who's so "free-minded" that he may inevitably end up on the wrong side of the law--be it legally, or socially.

I certainly don't envy parents tasked with nurturing their young charges in this post-Internet era, particularly when they can't exactly rely on their own parents to offer advice that's relevant in today's Web-enabled environment.

They can perhaps take small comfort in knowing that the Internet has also afforded them the ability, via online forums and communities, to share their experience with other young parents who may be struggling with the same dilemma.