20 Events That Had An Impact On Parents And Children In The Last 20 Years
Every year, a multitude of events occur that significantly impact parents and children. A few ‘stand’ out for their everlasting effect on the world. Here are 20 such events of the last two decades.
By Vidya Nesarikar • 18 min read
Over the course of a single year, many events happen that change the way of living for an entire society. And when we take the last two decades into count, many are left wondering at the speed at which these 20 years whizzed by. Even as many are recapping and rewinding, let us look at 20 events of the past 20 years that changed the world. More importantly, let us focus on the manner in which these events impacted parents and children.
1. The birth of the now ubiquitous Internet
While each era heralds the death of gadgets and devices, which people previously could not do without – the Internet ringed the death knell for many. One of the major losers was the 'encyclopedia' that parents and children of previous generations could not do without. Today, every information is looked for in search engines like Google and sites like Wikipedia. Though information at the touch of a button has made life easier for all (especially for ideas for fancy dress and school projects), there was something romantic about pouring over a book, which seems lost forever.
2. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) 2009
Education is one field where India has made positive, giant strides in the last 20 years. In 2009, India made it to the list of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child with the RTE Act. With this act, every child between the age of 6 to 14 years is entitled to free and compulsory education according to the Indian constitution. Compulsory education’ is interesting to note. It affirms an obligation on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group.
It also made mandatory that all private schools to reserve 25 per cent of seats for the poor and other categories of children.
3. The introduction of new education systems
Traditionally, Indian education revolved around CBSE and ICSE. However, over the last 20 years, education has opened spectacularly to include other education boards as well. Along with the CBSE, ICSE and state board syllabuses, parents were introduced to International Baccalaureate (IB) and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, Waldorf.
Rather than making things simpler, this has added more confusion to the already confused Indian parent. Many discussions burst in the online and offline world – about the best syllabus for a child. And last we checked – there has been no clear answer yet! The search is on.
4. The entry of video streaming
While our generation grew up on a steady diet of Doordarshan, the year 1991 saw the entry of cable television and changed the way of viewing for Indians forever.
Channels like CNN, STAR TV and private domestic channels such as Zee TV, ETV and Sun TV started satellite broadcasts and changed the fabric of family entertainment at home. The second revolution arrived with the entry of Netflix to India in 2016. This was followed by Amazon Prime, Hotstar and other video streaming services with no advertisement interruptions, content based on interest and age group and options to download to different devices.
Apart from live cricket matches and exciting news, parents and children are no longer enthralled by content on the idiot box making video streaming one of the biggest events in the last two decades.
5. Greta Thunberg and climate change
Today, Great Thunberg’s name is synonymous with climate change. For her it was not just a school poster to make or a school assignment – but a call for action, one that was among the most powerful ones of the last 20 years. At the age of 15, she first came into the public eye with her activism outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018. Thunberg was featured on the cover of Time magazine this year, and has received many other accolades and became the youngest Time Person of the Year. She has been an inspiration to youngsters across the world and is a reminder to all adults that today’s youth mean business.
6. Shootouts in the USA
Since 2000, according to data compiled by Wikipedia, there have been more than 130 shootings at elementary, middle and high schools, and 58 others at colleges and universities in one of the most powerful nations in the world. Gun violence in schools across USA is a reality and a worrying trend. What impact does it have on children and parents? Will USA see stricter gun control laws? One is reminded of the song by Bob Dylan…And how many times must the cannonball fly, Before they’re forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
7. Food apps and the changing food habits of Indians
One big event of the last two decades is the birth of food apps. Who would have thought that the introduction of food apps would change our lives forever. From just one idli to a box of donuts, the urban Indian is truly spoilt for choice. Does one really want to step out for dinner when dinner can come home? This is indeed a blessing for parents of small children, who just want a break from cooking and are tired of toddlers breaking all the crockery and making a din in a restaurant.
Although food apps have also raised questions related to nutritional needs of children and mothers cooking less but sometimes, all you need is a break, and the food apps deliver (on all counts.)
8. Saina and Sania make their mark in sports
Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza are two sporting icons who changed the perception of sports for children beyond cricket. Sania Mirza burst onto the professional tennis scene in 2003 and quickly became a household name. Next came Saina Nehwal, the badminton superstar in 2006. These two champions were followed by many other sportswomen like Mary Kom, Dutee Chand, P.V. Sindhu and Mithali Raj who have inspired youngsters across India to follow their dreams in different sports. It’s no longer just about men’s cricket that held sway over the country for a good part of the last two decades. Several parents are now looking at other sports as a career option for their little girls and boys.
9. Entry of international food chains
One major event that had a major impact on the health of both parents and children was the entry of international food chains in the country with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) opening its first fast-food outlet in Bangalore in June 1995. Since then, international fast food chains and their outlets have mushroomed in urban and semi urban India. With this, the consumption of junk food by children has sky-rocketed resulting in many health issues like obesity and nutrition deficiency. Over time, there is a growing concern about child nutrition, ingredients in packaged food, organic foods etc.
10. Malls which changed the concept of an outing
Years back, an outing for the family involved going to the movies, eating out or visiting a park. The entry of malls changed all this.
In most quizzes Spencer Plaza in Chennai is listed as the first mall in India in 1987. However, the organized retail trend started in India in 1999 with the launch of its first ever mall called “Ansal's Plaza” in Delhi, which was followed by “Crossroads” in Mumbai.
Over the years, malls have become not only a shopping destination but a lifestyle destination changing the fabric of a Sunday outing. Children were never this excited about going to the bazaar or market unless toffees were promised but the allure of the mall is almost transcendental – food, video games, play areas, movie, toys, clothes – the list is endless. Though malls can be a fun outing occasionally, children’s counselors have pointed out that a mall can be overstimulating, especially for young children. Decide beforehand the things to buy or do before hitting the mall to avoid tantrums and disappointments.
11. The rise of smartphones
Who would have thought that a little gadget would become an indispensable part of everyday life? Yes, we are talking about the metamorphosis of the simple mobile phone that went from being a device to receive and make calls to a smartphone that can literally do almost anything. But, the rise of smartphones has also created a dilemma for both parents and children. With smartphone addiction on the rise, monitoring screen for children (and adults) has become a top parenting problem of our times.
Smartphone addiction has impacted parents and children both in a positive and negative manner. Scientists have warned the ill effects of screen time on children, especially toddlers. Just an hour a day staring at a screen can be enough to make children more likely to be anxious or depressed. This could be making them lose interest in daily life, lessen their ability to finish activities tasks, make them less emotionally stable and lower their self-control, stated a report from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia.
12. The iconic Maruti 800 car
A major event that changed the face of the middle-class cars in 1983 was the arrival of the Maruti 800. Small and compact, this car became an aspiration for many middle-class families who dreamt of going on a ride in this car.
Over the years, many other international players like Ford, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Honda have made their entry into Indian roads. A car became an accessible reality. An offset of this, was the bug to travel. It was no longer about that one trip to Mecca or Benaras – road trips with families became a thing. Weekend getaways, adventure holidays, road trips crossing land borders – you name it and the Indian family is game for it. Coupled with the rise of internet, online travel portals and spending capacity of Indian families – Indian have become mega travelers. It is no longer pilgrimages and visit to grandparents’ houses.
13. More security measures at school
A major change seen in the last two decades when it comes to children has been the complete overhaul of security measures in schools. In 2014, parents across India were shocked to hear of the rape of a six-year-old girl on school campus in Bangalore. This incident and a few more that followed, made schools more stringent about security measures at school. These unfortunate incidents helped start conversations about child sexual abuse. Many schools now offer counseling, manuals, workshops on child sexual abuse.
14. Burst of day cares in India
In the time of our grandparents, day cares were an unknown concept. Over time, the number of women in the work area increased. However, many women were used to foregoing their careers due to the lack of a support system to take care of their children in the yester years. The IT industry changed all this. With flexible working hours, work from home options and the availability of professional day care – on and off the campus, many women chose to continue to keep their jobs after their babies were born. Day care is no longer seen as an anomaly, but a norm in urban India.
15. Indian American children winning spelling bee competitions in USA
Indian Americans have been on a winning streak at every Scripps National Spelling Bee since 2008. It is a moment of pride for Indians across the world. Traditionally, Indian American parents have always invested in academics such as science, technology, mathematics, etc. Spellings may seem like a deviation but Indian American seem to love the spelling bee and the edge it gives their children at a very young age. Perhaps, a feel-good validation of migrating to USA. A sort of brain Olympics – and spellers inspiring future spellers – if he or she can do it – let’s give it a shot too!
When the spelling bee reaches its 100th anniversary in 2025, it’s hard to imagine Indian Americans not being a part of it, and for turning this event into a highly competitive sport.
16. Children and reality shows
Reality shows changed the fabric of television entertainment for Indian and the world over. Dance Indian Dance Little Masters, Super Dancer, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa l’l Champs are some of the popular shows. The chance to be selected as a star and for your talent to be known is an allure that many find irresistible. It can be a dream launch pad. Many singers like Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghosal who were discovered from reality shows are a benchmark for parents. Sunidhi was 13 when she won India’s first singing reality show on Doordarshan, Meri Aawaz Suno in 1996. While many children have found fame and fortune – the flipside was soon revealed. It all came at a cost - harsh judgements, inappropriate dances for children, long shooting hours, and exploitative conditions – began to take a toll on children’s mental health. Are childs at such a young age to deal with anxiety, stress and mental fatigue?
17. Apartment complexes
20 years ago, flats were nothing more than an ugly and dusty construction dotting Mumbai and government neighbourhoods. But with the influx of people into cities, and independent houses becoming too expensive the big builders got into the apartment complex business. Today, many parents prefer apartment complexes for the sense of community and family it brings. In many apartments –all festivals across India are celebrated with gusto, children make their closest friends with neighbours, many facilities like gym, schools, malls, play areas, parks are within the community. Some may point out that with high rise buildings coming up most people are losing their connection with the earth, but high-rise living is here to stay.
18. The career of a Youtuber
The rise of the internet meant different things for different people. It was no longer about exchange of information and email on the go for the millennial. In 2009, singer Justin Bieber was discovered as a powerhouse talent after posting his music videos on YouTube. Since then the world over has You Tube stars, instagram stars, Tik Tok Stars and others. It would be easy to dismiss all this as a flash in the pan – but many of these youngsters have a huge following and earning money. Today, one can see many including children taking to Youtube to show off their skills and, if successful, make a full-fledged profession of it.
19. Anti-ragging laws
Ragging has always been a bane to parents when it comes to their children. Every year, this abusive practice that is still prevalent, although in small measure, in schools and colleges across the country leads many suicides. In 2009, UGC Regulations On Curbing The Menace Of Ragging In Higher Educational Institutions were introduced. It was finally acknowledged by the government and educational authorities the trauma of ragging and considered it a criminal offense.
20. The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign
A campaign that put an spotlight on the sorry state of girls in India, the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao launched on 22 January 2015 brought female foeticide and the education of the girl child to the forefront. According to census data in India, the child sex ratio (0–6 years) in India was 931 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001, which dropped to 918 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2011. In 2015, Beti Bachao, Beti Padao was launched and the campaign received worldwide attention. It remains to be seen, what the next census would reveal.
When we look back on our lives and the world around us, sometimes only moments stand out – some good, some bad. We as parents and adults, seem to be witnessing tectonic lifestyle shifts. Is it all for the better? Only time will tell.
About the author:
Written by Vidya Nesarikar on 28 December 2019.
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