Like every new invention which comes with opportunities and challenges, there was a veiled agreement among participants at a recent gathering in Lagos, that social media, originally created to foster sharing of ideas, thoughts, information, and encourage the building of virtual networks and communities, has turned a nightmare to some of its users particularly the youths.
The graphic description of how the youth’s uncensored access to social media adversely affects their education, promotes fake news, and appreciably encourages premarital sexual escapades underscores this assertion.
Indeed, it was clear that the participants at the one-day youth summit which had as its theme, Sex and Social Media; power of the mind, organised by a faith-based group, were unanimous that what users make out of social media depends largely on their ability to perform, and engage their minds on tasks such as learning, reasoning, understanding and other activities known for their far-reaching positive impacts.
Looking at the crowd of young Nigerians who fraternises with the social media with “exiting progress”, recorded in this direction, and instincts coming from the larger society, it is deducible that the social media has great power to educate, create new ideas and promote human relations. But just as an unchained torrent of water submerges a whole countryside and devastates crops, even so, uncontrolled use of the social media serves but to destroy.
This is the reality confronting our country.
If this line of reasoning is correct, it will necessitate the posers as to; how many of the youth in Nigeria would stand the test? Who will stop those who cannot apply the virtue of moderation in their use of social media? And who should be the judge? Or must we as a nation allow the useful and the useless like good and evil go on together allowing our nation to reap whatever fruit that comes to grief in the nearest future?
Again, aside from the fact that many who originally supported the youth’s unhindered access to the social media have recently come to realise that such judgment was plagued with both moral and ethical issues, there are questions of what the parents and government are doing to regulate the access from within?
The solution for these problems, urgent as they are, must be constructive and rational. But then, it would be naïve of me proffering solutions without acknowledging the factors that contributed to this challenge the country is currently grappling with..
Beginning with reality, the most embracing of all these factors are; the parents’ inability to regulate the activities of their children on social media and government’s payment of reluctant attention to quality education in the country.
So, if you are asking why the Nigerian youth have for the moment lost all fear of punishment and yielded obedience to the power of social media which their friends exercise, then, search no further as the majority of them enjoy their parents’ support.
But in taking this position, one vital point these parents failed to remember is that the formation of children is a delicate one. And experts have described adolescence as a period of the storm, a stage in the developmental growth of the youth that drives them to explore and express their psychosexual self to possibly know more about the world around them. Once the point is missed, such ignorance and mistake by the parents cause on the child an opening that many a time is wrongly filled by ‘friends’, and the Internet voluntarily posing as one of such friends.
What the youth in my views desire most from their parents are love, solidarity, peace, faith and not unhindered or uncensored access to social media.
Beyond the above concern lies the question as to how the government contributes to the youth’s abuse of social media.
Undoubtedly, the not too impressive educational system characterised by incessant industrial action on the one hand, and the quality of materials the youth are exposed to by teachers in the name of education should be a source of worry to all.
After all, it’s established that one can be extremely educated and at the same time be ill-informed or misinformed.
For example, between the 1930s and 1940s, many members of the Nazi party in Germany were extremely well-educated but their knowledge of literature, mathematics, philosophy, and others simply empowered them to be effective Nazis. As no matter how educated they were, no matter how well they cultivated their intellect, they were still trapped in a web of totalitarian propaganda that mobilised for evil purpose.
From the foregoing, it is important to underscore that the menace posed by the activities of our youth was created by them, accelerated by parents and government. An effort, therefore, must be made by all to end its existence and erase the guilt.
Catalysing the process will require parents becoming more religious in monitoring the activities of their children and wards. Similarly, it will be rewarding in social and economic terms if the government pays more attention to the nation’s education sector as a way of getting the youth gainfully engaged. This, no doubt, holds the possibility of ending the fake news scourge on our territory.
The youth on their part, must develop the Spartan discipline to reorganise, and go for activities with high moral values
Utomi writes from Lagos via [email protected]