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11 Dec 2023, Edition - 3072, Monday

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Instances of masturbation in class growing among toddlers

Vidyashree Dharmaraj


Toddlers masturbating in classes has been on the rise. Shockingly children as young as six or seven engage in touching their genitals for pleasure, annoying teachers. Such cases are coming to fore in corporation and international schools, say psychologists handling school children.

Children may seek pleasure through physical exploration and learn about their body. In some cases it could be for pleasure as they are already being sexually exploited by someone close.

In some instances, the child may have been subjected to watching porn forcefully and subsequently got used to it. Such toddlers may resort to this behaviour through masturbation or may sometimes try it on their peers.

Recalling a recent case that grabbed headlines, where a four-year-old child was molested by his four-year-old classmate in New Delhi, Dr Vinu Aram, Director of Shanthi Ashram, says the child may not be aware of the word ‘sex’ and that may not be the intent. They replicate what they hear and see in this impressionable age. They understand the pattern of response and are mostly absorbed from the environment. Children of five or six years easily reproduce what they see and a positive example is language. It is not learnt in class but at home. Sometimes negativities (should be read as acts of violence) could come from the same environment.

The problem mostly arises in middle class, where the family feels socially awkward in presenting intimacy. Children share the same room at nights where the parents are sexually active. Children are raised in awkwardness where they are made to believe that menstruation and masturbation are not abnormal. There is lack of clarity or space to normalise it.

It is important that parents have a crucial role to play to change in accordance with the times. They have to consciously build the environment around the child.

Experts point out that when children see a girl child being ill-treated in and around their place of living, it almost by second nature to practise that. “We often don’t acknowledge positive acts because it is taken for granted. And when the child uses foul-words or derogatory language we dismiss it as minor expressions of violence. We miss out on the fact that lighter examples can amplify into physical violence and often notice things when the expressions turn extreme,” she notes.

A toddler struggling with masturbation is construed a sinner for the act is believed to be sexual. A distress call by an institutional care provider to a counsellor recently brought to fore the need for anticipatory guidance, especially for a child struggling to handle the pubertal change.

“ Masturbation especially among children is considered ‘wrong’. Instead of being judgemental on the child or the caretaker getting alarmed by such behaviour, it is important to provide the child counselling. Absence of a heartfelt conversation between the parents and the children on the unprecedented changes that mark puberty is a primary reason for the child growing up thinking masturbation is an offence and he is a sinner,” Aram adds.

Swathi Priya. P, Counselling Psychologist who has been handling school children for a decade, now calls this toddler behaviour as a ‘secret game’ that they ‘play’ because they find it impressive.

“Psychologists have been consulting cases where children in Grade 5 and 6 indulge in masturbation. When they explore the pleasure they pass it on to other children and sometimes try it with the opposite sex,”

Swathi cites a case study where sexual exploitations could have an effect on the child after he grows up. A six-year-old child of working parents was abused by a maid who touched him inappropriately while giving him bath and he grew to have a steady relationship with her. The boy grew up as an adult getting attracted to older women.

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