Issues and Challenges

Fighting Mass Media’s Socio-Cultural Onslaught

Parenting is becoming challenging in the age of globalization, where there is an onslaught of cultural and social content from all over the world thanks to mass media. The problem here is that this is too often in conflict with our indigenous cultural values and norms. There is hot debate about the pros of a global community and merging boundaries. There is focus on a transcontinental regime and the boundary-less world with respect to trade, values and ethics. Mass media has a very critical and pivotal role in all of this. Amidst it all indigenous values, ethical norms, cultural ideals and ethos are on the verge of marginalization. Mass media, over the past two decades, has overwhelmingly portrayed a flamboyant image of the western culture and ethos, minimizing focus on the very essence of Pakistani traditions and cultural norms. The recent phenomenon of adding Indian culture to that list and the unfortunate fact that we, as a society, are not well equipped and ready to face it has further added to the challenges faced by parents. 
The extent to which media actually dictates our values, norms, everyday life, and choices as well as preferences is exceedingly greater than what it was a decade ago. Increased access to media of the populace, with little diversification and limitation of its content according to age groups, level of education and exposure, makes them susceptible to fallacies and misinterpretation. This specifically poses a great threat to the naïve, immature minds, having an ever-increasing access to media without any filter or restriction in accordance with our cultural and social limits. An even greater responsibility lies with the parents who are bringing up their children who have a very fragile mindset in times of inflated media interface and information overload. The following are key areas of focus for parents in the contemporary age:
a. Defending the cultural facets of indigenous norms and values is important. The media portrays foreign culture as the dominating trends and something to be followed. There is an emergent need to prioritize local culture at the catbird seat. Otherwise, it will not be long before local culture will become drastically defunct.
b. Parents play a key role in sustaining a child’s ethical and social paradigm and this is imperative for diversity in the child’s personality. Acceptance to diversity is actually vital to wholeheartedly accepting alien cultural norms while at the same time understanding one’s own indigenous culture. The Pakistani society has a mix of traditional and cultural dynamics, extending from Baltistan to Karachi and from Punjab to Balochistan — each single province has its own dynamic set of traditions that are the heritage of the people dwelling there. But with media’s tilted approach of extensively promoting western trends, the metropolitan citizens of cities like Karachi and Islamabad, that have an amalgam of cross-cultural diversity from all corners of Pakistan, actually forget their own peculiar trends. 
c. Likewise, it has become a challenge for parents to justify expectations and realities for children in the age of mass media. It proves very difficult for parents to defy the negative messages, profoundly because of its emerging popularity and alluring gaudy presentation. This has a very negative effect on a child’s psychological state, where artificial mental images are imprinted on a young mind. For parents it is arduous to sift through the overload of information, thanks to the internet, the social media and electronic and print media, which make the provision of information widespread and readily available but which have been very unsuccessful in differentiating useful from irrelevant information. Moreover, parental controls are highly deficient and have exacerbated the whole turmoil of media assaulting our socio-ethical and cultural paradigms. 
Parents are facing a risk with the long-term payoff, apprehending their child’s outlook of the world thirty years from now: whether it will give way to individualistic mindsets, if it will be complemented by lack of respect for elderly and a disdainful attitude towards parents when they are feeble and weak. In this entire situation, media seems like an active agent changing and poisoning mindsets. For parents this perception increases fear and outcomes seem to be pessimistic and gloomy.
The psycho-social impact of media is great and its role in catering to social norms and cultural ethos is significant. A state level intervention is indeed one way to resolve this paradox. Policy and planning have to focus on this aspect and approach the issue by apprehending the worst-case scenario. A task force could be set up to come up with measures to design content where respect to own indigenous culture and traditions should be ensured. It is imperative at all levels, all segments and at all forums to ensure reform in favor of our national culture. The need for a local solution to contemporary challenges is important. Most importantly, parents are the key factors in bringing up children and can greatly turn the situation by creating an environment where indigenous values are celebrated. Charity begins at home and so does the love for one’s own customs and traditions. 
An understanding of one’s own reality is the core value that ascertains success and long-term prosperity. Media has to rethink and bring back the basics to its agenda before the society’s fabric is lost and forgotten. The child is the future bridged to the previous generation through tradition, culture, ritual and ethos. Preserving customs is in dire need in today’s world of overwhelming media interference in everyday life, where a parent is the pivot that can turn around situations for the best. HH

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