On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Me and you and a system that went boo-boo

Not grass or uppers but hard drugs.

Between 1990 and 1995, a total of 513 single mothers gave birth at welfare
institutions. The figure shows an increase of 280 per cent from 1990.

Are these findings the result of parents with demanding high-profile jobs not
spending time with their children?

Many urban parents shower their children with money, gifts, supplementary
credit cards and handphones but have no idea how their children spend their
time and with whom.

Without having to earn for what they have and leading a materialistic
lifestyle, the only attention these children get are from their peers.

However, the inability to spend time with children is but one of the causes.
The other is having to deal with the high expectations of urban living.

For example, Joseph Ong, a modern father of 46, prides himself for taking great
pains to spend quality time with his son.

Every morning he gets out of his Subang Jaya home at 7am to beat the traffic
madness to take his 13-year-old son to a nearby international school.

And every weekend, Joe faithfully takes his wife, an advertising executive, and
son to a recreation club.

His household is cared for by an Indonesian maid who cleans and cooks for the
boy when he returns from school. Last week, the boy asked his father to stop
sending him to school as he wouldn't mind going by bus.

The teenager did not want to be seen in his father's Proton Saga when many of
his schoolmates were driven in BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

"My son also asked if we could have an English-speaking Filipino maid
instead,'' Joe grumbled.

"After getting a Internet-ready computer installed, he asked for an
air-conditioner, saying he couldn't sleep. He would probably ask for a
handphone to chat with his girlfriends next.''

Joe had heard similar tales from his colleagues but never thought it would
happen to him. Being a child from the 60s and a product of the flower-power
era, he was disappointed that his child didn't possess any of his ideals.

The only consolation Joe has is that his son is bright, computer-literate,
ambitious, reads widely and would probably succeed in life.

Joe is quite sure that his son had come across pornographic materials, while
surfing the Net and merely told him to stay away.

He believes his son does not smoke but may have tried a stick or two, as Joe
did in his school days.

"Clinton himself admitted he tried smoking grass while in college although he
said he didn't inhale. Do you believe him?,'' said Joe.

It's always so easy for politicians to talk about social programmes and the
involvement of government and non-governmental organisations to fight social

Although something is being done, like the Rakan Muda project, incidents of young
people getting high or flushing babies down toilet bowls still occur.

Then, there is the outrageous call to close down all karaoke lounges and video
arcades. How these outlets are linked to worsening social problems among youths
remain debatable.

Some experts believe that karaoke singing can help build self-confidence, while
playing computer games stimulates the mind and sharpens the reflexes.

Moreover, teenagers are not allowed into karaoke lounges and even if they get
to sneak in, few could afford the charges.

The survey has, without doubt, alerted parents and policy-makers to the
seriousness of the country's social and moral development. After all, these are
important elements in the national agenda to make Vision 2020 a success.

The country's remarkable economic success has, in some ways, led to various
social problems including the degradation of moral values.

It looks like the weakening of traditional family relationships in modern
living has taken a toll on us.

It's always so easy to blame the young ones and to come up with knee-jerk
reactions and later backtrack. The fact is, all of us are equally responsible
and we haven't the guts to admit to not knowing how to deal with it

Take the case of smoking. We banned it in many public places but enforcement is
such a sham. The Government allows tobacco companies to sponsor major sport
events, including indirectly promoting their product through TV

We tell our children that smoking is bad, yet many including teachers and
parents smoke openly. So how do we convince our children?

What about gambling? Take your pick horse racing, 3D, 4D, lottery. If you don't
have money, you can always catch the game shows on TV.

Mention moral education, and everyone nods approvingly. But we all know that
the subject is so unimportant that sometimes the period is used for something

And since the school teacher is unable to teach everything in school, and if
your child needs the notes and model answers for exams, he will have to attend
tuition class after school.

Mum and dad are too busy to listen to their problems but will pay the tuition
fees. After all, they will lose face if the child fails to get straight

It's tough to be a child these days. It should be even harder for parents and
politicians to say, without being hypocritical that they lived puritan
lifestyles during the 50s and 60s.

If you are inclined to believe the latter, then you would believe Clinton
didn't inhale when he smoked grass. You would probably believe everything
you're told.