In the past, as children grew up, the most important things they needed to be oriented on were general manners and etiquette, traditional values, relevance of education, dynamics of their religion, issues surrounding sexual relations, matters about marriage, managing finances, housekeeping and the like. This was just about two decades ago before the emergence and rise of the Internet and social media.
Of course, currently, a great deal of these values or the necessary orientation on these values has been eroded because of modernisation and, more recently, because of digitisation. The world is evolving at a rate that few can ably keep up with. The behavioral and information gaps between generations is becoming wider and wider because of this swift pace of evolvement. And social media plays a huge role in this.
Technology and social media have become a strong influence on people and young people are especially susceptible to this influence; social media influences body image, ambitions, view on life and views on a lot of other matters that young people associate with. It also influences agendas for discussion and news. When something is happening, people are able to follow through social media whether it is happening within their country or abroad.
The Robert Mugabe ‘elegant’ coup that unfolded late last year and the way it held the world on an anxiety ransom brought vivid memories of a similar time during the elections in the United States of America the previous year. The globe was on the edge following instant updates as they came on who was leading between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to the point Trump was declared and sworn in as president. Social media played a very active role in spreading the news to the point that even those that do not follow international news had no choice but to watch the events unfold in front of them.
It is alleged that social media has become such a strong influential tool that governments are also using social media as a tool to gauge people’s reactions to various matters; the recent traffic fines saga right here at home comes to mind. It is also so strong that political parties use it to campaign and evaluate the popularity of rival parties. Both our ruling and main opposition parties have the presence and followership online. Coincidence?
The point is social media is a force on its own.
It is essential that how young people engage with new media becomes an issue that is handled with importance and sensitivity by those that engage in guidance and in raising young people. Since schools have also taken up new media as part of the learning process, they should also have courses designed to equip young people on best practices when dealing with new media
Nowadays, even before children can understand what is going on, they pick up habits such as posing for camera and taking videos on phones. The fact that adults spend a lot of their time texting or talking on the phone at all times becomes the new normal before children can discern when it is appropriate to do that or before they know what is appropriate to end up on the phone.
By upper primary school, most children have phones and WhatsApp. By secondary school, most children have social media accounts. So even education is being affected by technology and social media norms
Young people are now party to political hate speech, LGBT campaigns, feminism and gender issues, racism, religion vs atheism and, recently in the country, the bloodsucking saga which are complicated topics of impact and influence on behaviour and growth that can sometimes confuse or mislead immature mind with informed background on these matters.
In the past, it was easier for parents and teachers to observe what children are reading and watching but phones make it harder to do so as they are private gadgets and they aggregate vast data from all possible sources. This makes it imperative that social media orientation is done from a very tender age when a child is forming his intrinsic character. It is unrealistic to treat the emergence of social media and its influence on society and human beings with passivity.
I rest my case