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How You Can Make The Pandemic Screen-Time More Productive For Your Children

By Nishant Rathi (Founder and CEO of NeoSOFT Technologies)

With no signs of the COVID-19 crisis abating, students and parents are bracing up for another summer spent in the confines of their homes. When in previous summer we were still hoping for things to get normal in another month or so, this time around we are better prepared. While vaccines might be circulating in the market, they still cannot be administered to children. Naturally, with going outdoors being out of the picture, the question that most parents have is how to engage their kids in the upcoming summer.

We have witnessed businesses and operations go online– and summer camps are not any different. There are plenty of virtual summer camps and a myriad of online courses and crash courses for youngsters that teach them new and valuable skills. The importance of being digitally sound need not be reiterated. Virtual summer tech camps are an excellent medium to encourage young people to pick up valuable skills that are sure to come in handy in the future. Here are a few courses that you can consider to get your child interested in:

Vihaan Khera, 9, from Gurgaon has developed the app Book Barter, which helps with the process of exchanging books between people. The programming skills that WhiteHat Jr offers has helped him
Vihaan Khera is a 9-year-old from Gurgaon who has developed the app Book Barter, which helps with the process of exchanging books between people. Image Credit: Whitehat Jr.
  1. Coding/Programming

Coding is, without a doubt, the most in-demand skill that is going to be highly sought-for in the upcoming years. With conventionally non-technical sectors joining the digital revolution, coding is not going to be a skill merely desired in IT professionals.

Today, there are many tools out there designed explicitly for youngsters to easily grasp the basics of coding. Depending on their age and knowledge level, they can take their skills and learn programming with various programming languages such as BASIC, Blockly, Scratch, HTML, Java, Python, and a lot more. They can take another step ahead and pick up web development if that is where their passion lies. The possibilities are endless enough to keep them busy all through the summer.

  1. App Building

Apps are popular and much loved. If you want to get something done– anything at all– chances are that there is an app out there waiting to help you. They are yet another way to get young people excited and started with coding and programming in a fun and interactive environment. With an app development course, children learn to design, build, and develop their own unique app. This activity, experts have shown, develop their confidence, procedural thinking, and communication skills.

  1. Ethical Hacking, Machine Learning, and AI

While these terms sound intimidating and absolutely nothing like something kids can master, in reality, that is far from the truth. With issues like digital security and cyber safety being serious concerns, especially for children, getting them interested in ethical hacking might be a good idea.

With numerous tools out there– such as the Microsoft Explanimators video series, Experiments with Google, and Scratch, to name a few, kids can learn machine learning models which they apply to play games or complete interactive projects. These activities are designed to instil in them the basic principles and nuances of machine learning and artificial intelligence in a completely easy and non-intimidating way.

  1. Robotics

This one is a no-brainer. Kids love toys, and things that move and can be controlled. Just like with hacking, machine learning, and AI, if presented in an engaging and entertaining way, this is a perfect course for kids to get started with and interested in electronics and mechanics.

A robotics course boosts your child’s programming, design thinking, and logical and analytical skills as they learn, experiment and play. At the end of the day, they get their very own robot created and controlled by them.

  1. Digital illustration, Animation, and Game Design

Digital does not mean being limited to coding and programming. If your kids are creatively inclined, it might be worth considering giving their artistic side a new edge by supplementing it with technology. The scope of digital art is endless– especially in a world that values quality customer experience and good visuals.

With tools like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, your children can expand their horizons drastically. To make drawing more fun, you can encourage them to learn to animate their art and create small snips or short stories, if that is what they are inclined towards. Teenagers can spend the summer learning to create their very own video game avatar, and even the entire game itself. The possibilities are limited only by their imagination.

  1. Graphic Design and Digital Photography

Drawing and animation are not the only avenue for artistic kids. With most of our digital communication occurring via eye-catching banners and graphics across social media and screens, the importance of a good post goes without explaining. Encourage your children to use that smartphone creatively. Encourage them to learn the art of photography, editing them digitally and turning them into a great poster or merging two pictures to create a piece of digital art.

  1. Digital Marketing

This is a fairly easy skill to pick up out of all the ones mentioned above. However, it is not a skill to be underestimated. Your kids stand to learn the basics of social media visibility using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). With a digital marketing course, they will learn the importance of good writing and communication, eye-catching creative photos and illustrations, user experience and expectations, handling a blog or webpage and much more.

In conclusion, we all know that being cooped up indoors, our kids are going to resort to digital screens to pass time. Investing their time in a virtual course is a good way to turn a considerable amount of their screen time productive.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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