Parents, Children And The Challenge Of Social Media—-One of the major high points at this year’s children day celebration in Nigeria, is the admonition by Wilfred Mammah, a child protection specialist with UNICEF, in Kaduna, that parents should always protect their children or wards against all forms of violence.
According to him; “As we celebrate children’s day, it is important for all of us as parents to know that children are the bedrock of society. As such, there is a need for us to protect them.”Children are facing unusual challenges in our country. They are violated almost everywhere in schools, homes and communities.“This violence against children includes sexual, physical, psychological assaults, among others,” he said. He explained that the first thing to do as a parent in protecting the children is to be responsible by catering for their needs, like feeding, clothing, decent shelter and education, adding that parents are primary caregivers.
Essentially, Mammah admonition becomes well appreciated, when one remembers that the World Children’s Day which was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and celebrated on May 27 each year was initially among other aims targeted at providing Mothers and fathers, teachers, nurses and doctors, government leaders and civil society activists, religious and community elders, corporate moguls and media professionals, as well as young people and children themselves, an opportunity to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.
But as parents, how well have we played this role?
Indeed, this question comes to mind particularly now that there is a veiled agreement among Nigerians 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 children/youths. The graphic description at different times and places by concerned Nigerians of how children/youth’s uncensored access to social media adversely affects their education, promotes fake news, and appreciably encourages premarital sexual escapade underscores this assertion.
Looking at the crowd of young Nigerians that fraternize with the social media with ‘ ‘exiting progress’’, recorded in this direction, and instincts coming from the larger society, it is evident 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 whole country sides and devastates crops, even so, uncontrolled use of the social media serves but to destroy.
Parents have allowed social media to spread its wings across all spheres of their children’s lives – educational, sociopolitical and most importantly, morals..This is the reality confronting our republic.
If this line of reasoning is correct, it will necessitate the posers as to; how many of the youths in Nigeria would stand the test? Who will stop those that 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 youth’s unhindered access to social media have recently come to realize 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, most bracing of all these factors are; parent’s inability to regulate the activities of their children on social media and the government’s payment of reluctant respect to quality education in the country.
To shed more light on the above, the vast majority of parents have at different times and places, in their concern with values such as, namely; Work, success, prestige, and money advocated that social media like a free press is an organic necessity in a society and if children are precluded from using social media to ventilate their sentiment on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent they may be led, like sheep to the slaughter’.
So, if you are asking why Nigerian youths 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 the youths enjoys their parent’s 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 childhood as a period of the storm, a stage in the developmental growth of the youths that drives the youths 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 causes on the child an opening that many a time is wrongly filled by ‘friends’-the internet voluntarily posing as one of such friends.
What Nigerian children 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, lays the question as to how the government contributes to the youth’s abuse of social media.
Undoubtedly, the not too impressive educational system characterized by incessant industrial action on one hand, and the quality of materials youths 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 ‘ 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 mobilized for evil purpose’ From the foregoing, it is important to underscore that the menace posed by the activities of our youths was created by the youth, accelerated by parents and government.
An effort, therefore, must be made by all to end its existence and erase the guilt.
Catalyzing the process will require parents becoming more religious in monitoring the activities of their wards.
Similarly, it will be rewarding in social and economic terms if the government pays more attention to the nation’s educational sector as a way of getting these youths gainfully engaged-this, no doubt holds the possibility of ending fake news scourge on our political geography.
Nigerian youths on their parts must develop the Spartan discipline to reorganize, and go for activities with high moral values
Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;j[email protected] /08032725374.