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Deal with negative impacts of social media on youth

Parents have raised concerns about the dangers this has posed and the difficult task of controlling what the children access online. [iStockphoto]

Over the years, social media has shaped how we relate. It is no longer necessary to see someone physically to know their status. Meetings have been moved online and interviews are virtual.

With Covid-19, the number of users online has escalated. According to Data Report, there are 4.88 billion internet users in the world today. In Kenya, there were 21.75 million internet users in January 2021. 

These numbers are expected to rise in 2022. The penetration of the internet has been facilitated by the availability of affordable internet and smartphones.

With the younger generation between 18 and 35 years constituting 25 per cent of the population, they have resorted to finding work online as content creators, social influencers, and writers.

However, with the evolution full of opportunities, we cannot dispute the dangers that this has come with; emotional torture, cyberbullying, fantasy living as well as the time consumed on the social networks.

Parents have raised concerns about the dangers this has posed and the difficult task of controlling what the children access online.

According to data from Bullying Statistics, over 25 per cent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet. Most cases of bullying happen to women.

Sexual harassment

These cut across cyberstalking, sexual harassment, unauthorised use, and manipulation of personal information, including images and videos. With the rising numbers of cyberbullying, every age group has become vulnerable, including politicians and journalists.

Bullies take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet. This calls upon the government to come up with measures to strengthen the regulations in place to fight cyberbullying. The other factor worth looking into is the fantasy living among youth.

The Internet has created a world where everyone wants to be a celebrity with a higher number of engagements. The young generation has bowed to pressure, and this has resulted in lifestyle faking, thus creating a depressed generation.

According to the WHO depression fact sheet, over 700,000 people die from suicide every year. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15 to 29-year-olds.

Parents have been on the other side of the tug of war with no clear strategy to win the war, having minimal solutions to the dangers that the online space offers because of their minimal involvement or the lack of know-how when it comes to online operations.  

It is a collective responsibility of society to come up with measures that curb the negative factors that come with internet penetration. The young generation needs to be taught the safe use of the Internet and better content creation measures and guidelines.

If not solved, this is another pandemic looming in a couple of years.

Mr Irungu is a PR and communications professional. 

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