Don’t let kids suffer our social media competition

Children, no matter how extraordinary we want them to be, are just humans


CHILD prodigies are not a new phenomenon. Among the earliest notable child prodigies include music composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), philosopher Juana Ines de la Cruz (1648- 1695) and French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).

Closer to home, we have Sufiah Yusof who was accepted into Oxford University to do a degree in Mathematics at the age of 12.

Another Math genius Adi Putra Abdul Ghani made it to the International Islamic University Malaysia Matriculation Centre when he was just nine years old and the late Chiang Ti Ming who, at 15, was the youngest student at the California Institute of Technology.

Their achievements were celebrated nationwide but that was pretty much it; Malaysians, in general, were not directly or significantly affected by these children’s gifts and natural talents. But this was “back then”.

Today, no thanks to competition on social media, any other person’s accolade could trigger parents into throwing their kids into the best and toughest boot camps.

A friend once revealed that after any major sporting event like the Olympics, parents from her son’s school would rush to enrol their children into gymnastics, badminton or swimming academies, hoping that their offspring would be the next Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, Lee Chong Wei or Pandelela Rinong.

A three-year-old Malaysian boy recently wowed us and made the country proud when he was accepted into Mensa UK on Jan 14. Muhammad Haryz Nadzim Mohd Hilmy Naim, who lives in the UK, scored 142 on the Stanford-Binet IQ test, placing him in the 99.7th percentile.

Videos and photos of little Muhammad Haryz reading, writing, solving mathematical problems and posing next to a stack of books have made their way around the Internet.

It was reported that he reads at least two books before going to bed, otherwise he would not be able to sleep. Now, I wonder how many parents have started making their three-year-olds read a minimum of two books before bed.

And then, of course, there is social media which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we are now easily connected with people around the world, and a curse, because it could also lead to social anxiety, lack of self-confidence and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Like children and teenagers, parents are not exempted from the pressures of social media. Simply by seeing through Instagram how the rich and famous are raising their children and flaunting their kids’ achievements (cannot blame them, what proud parents wouldn’t), some may feel like they are not doing enough for their own kids or worse, that their kids are “not good enough”.

If not towards their own, maybe they would feel that way about their “mediocre” nephews, nieces or even their neighbours’ children. At the same time, they are judging others’ parenting skills and wondering why they are not exposing their toddlers to a hundred different skill sets.

These days, a child’s Saturday is filled with music classes and tuitions in the morning, have lunch in the car as they rush to swimming lessons and end the day with an evening ballet class.

And on Sunday, a whole different set of schedules. What if all they wanted to do was watch Saturday morning cartoons and run around at the park? They have had enough “lessons” from Monday to Friday.

Children, no matter how extraordinary we want them to be, are just humans. Let them take their time to discover their own potential, while we keep them healthy, happy and on the right path. They may seem mediocre now, but your child could just be the next Steve Jobs.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.