The changing times and rapid industrialization brought with it the change in the housing system across metropolitan cities. The huge migration of working-class population and precariat to the metro cities in search of jobs and better livelihood led to the changing in the housing system in big cities. The big self-owned houses gave way to the gated community living wherein flat culture came into existence.
This trend has been a worldwide phenomenon, perpetuated through public housing project or through private builders to satiate the increasing demand. This lifestyle did prove valuable and economical for the precariat and middle-class population, as it made the maintenance and living cost go down in metro cities.
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological System Theory talks about how a child’s life is entrenched and interdependent upon multiple environments surrounding him. The housing system is definitely a part of the ecosystem of the ecological model which directly or indirectly affect the growth and development of the child.
The system of living in flats and condos in a gated community does has its own merits, but the concrete jungle has made the free willed independent play a distant reality and has also resulted in reduced play spaces for children. Children have lost their autonomy and claim over the nature. The shared community living due to space crunch has even led to the shared play area for children, where adults, children and youngsters all step out for their limited recreation.
This compartmentalized lifestyle has not only taken the vast open lands away from children, it has also compartmentalized their routine, their socialization and their share in the open spaces.
Covid-19 Quarantine Time
The current pandemic has taken its toll on livelihoods, health and lifestyle of humans around the world. The impact on children is definitely many folds more as this has impacted their all-round development. The Quarantine has confined them in the four walls of their homes with their immediate families. Children are unable to step out to explore, to play, to socialize and be creative. It is not only affecting their physical well being but also their socio-emotional and cognitive well-being.
The families In flats who already have shared and limited resources to their rescue have now imprisoned their young generation in their little compartments or pigeon hole. They cannot engage in sensorial and outdoor play, they cannot explore the open wilderness, which was already very limited in cities. Children are getting dull due to boredom and the virtual lifestyle they have to give in too.
Definition of a new normal
The virtual world spreading its roots in childhood has taken away the real essence of childhood during these trying times. Children are expected to attend online sessions to be able to socialize with their peers and facilitators, the real time classroom has been replaced by virtual classroom, the physical presence of teacher is replaced by virtual teaching, physical education through online session implies doing some exercises and workouts in your living room due to space constraints. This new normal is far fetched from the real normal which was conceptualized by our theorists, philosophers and policy makers.
Times have changed, lifestyle has changed and so has the childhood. From the free willed outdoor play where time and space were not a limitation, the childhood has shrunk to compartmentalized play where time and space are both scanty and needs to be used judiciously. From the open-ended farms to small community parks, from open ended imaginary play to close ended availability play, things have regressed for children.
Their time to play has reduced, their time to autonomous exploration has reduced as their instruction time in schools have increased. The life is compartmentalized between different subjects like Science, Maths, Language and Environment, all this has led to reduced self-initiated free willed play. This new biological hazard has taken the new adopted normal and given a noval normal to children which is even further regressed, due to this Covid-19 pandemic children are forced to stay indoors, play indoors, socialize indoors and their lives are dependent upon data(internet) and its availability.
This entrenchment of technology in childhood is bearing long lasting effect on physical and mental development of children. From oral stories to virtual chatting, from open spaces to confined four walls and from big houses with trees to small flats, the life has regressed in its enormity and vastness.
Getting back to Normal
It will be months before the current Pandemic marks gets wiped out and life will return to normal. By then the definition of normal would have changed manifolds, especially for children for whom 6 months to a year is a big milestone in terms of their growth and development. Any crisis that has come in human evolution has always left its mark behind for the current and the generations to come.
Covid-19 will prove to be no different in this. Our current generation is tomorrow’s future and they are definitely affected by this pandemic overtly and covertly. This mark left on their cognitive, socio-emotional, creative and physical development is irreversible and it will be echoed in History. The Normal has evolved with time and changed with time, it is a debatable issue now which normal will be actually normal as this whole discourse is contextual and temporal.
The evolution of the normal can only be caricatured from the open oral dialogues of different generations living through this uncertain time. The written records and stories have helped us see the lives of different generations in deferent times and also get a glimpse of childhood in different eras.
Covid-19 and its effect on children and childhood will definitely be recorded and might help our future generation to be able to proactively anticipate and preserve the childhood. Sound childhood acts as the foundation for the strong adulthood, but the theories and policies would have to change its definition if the times keep changing like this, as soon all child development theories will stand redundant.
-by Garima Bhatia Srivastava