Book highlights youth struggle to balance academic, digital spaces

Innocent Mambo holding The ‘Don’t You Trust Me’ book during the reading and launch of the book at Nuria Bookshop, Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The risks youth encounter in digital life pits them between the education and significance of cybersecurity and responsible technology use.

In the book ‘Don’t You Trust Me? Bola’s Hidden Burden’ by Evalyn Oloo, Bola’s journey, like other African teens struggles with the complexities of life. It highlights the risks and pitfalls of the digital realm and emphasizes  the significance of cybersecurity and responsible technology use.

The story delves into the complexities of friendship, loyalty, and the importance of honesty and accountability offering invaluable lessons in the digital era.

It serves as a cautionary tale, aiming to engage and educate teenagers about cybersecurity and responsible digital citizenry.

This thought-provoking narrative explores the complexities of teenage life, the challenges of navigating the digital world, and the importance of understanding the implications of online interactions.

The book is about a frustrated 13-year-old boy, Bola who navigates through life brought about by several family challenges compounded by the risks and pitfalls of the digital realm. It emphasizes the significance of cybersecurity and responsible technology use.

In a bid to experience the realities and the importance of understanding the outside world, Bola finds solace in his mother’s mobile phone.

Social media

Since he didn’t know how to use it, he had to seek help from his friends at school, who in the process, introduced him to social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Tiktok. In this captivating story, Bola lands and connects with an unknown girl known as Charm 4’ on social media, falling into an online relationship.

Their relationship evolves into a daily obligation that he had to try and hide from his mother.

Charm 4 tries to force Bola to share nude photos.  “The video showed a girl sensually touching herself in her genital area.‘‘ ‘‘.. and this is what girlfriends and boyfriends are supposed to do. We’re not doing anything wrong,’’ she wrote. Bola said the demands were out of his reach, saying the requests were against his morals.

‘‘What does she want me to do now?’’ Bob said.  Don’t you trust me? She wrote. The strain on his academic performance and well-being become apparent, leading to unforeseen consequences.

As the consequences of his choices unfolded, Bola found himself on an island isolated away from his friends, character deterioration spiralling to the loneliness that challenged his moral compass.

Bola’s distrust of adults stems from broken promises in the past, and his household is filled with intense conversations and clashes. His spirited younger sister, Zola, adds to the dynamics, unafraid to confront others.

Compounded with challenges at home with his younger sister Zola, Bola finds himself at crossroads losing his joy in life and frustration.

The investigation pointed out that Instagram’s algorithms not only host such illicit activities but also actively promote them by exposing learners’ access and distributing illegal underage sexual content. Uncovered is the prevalence of child pornography on the Meta-owned platform.

By reading Bola’s story, teenagers can gain a deeper understanding of the implications of their online interactions, become more aware of the cybersecurity risks they face daily, and learn how to use technology responsibly. It’s a book that encourages reflection, instigates discussions, and promotes responsible digital citizenship.

The key message is championing the conversation on the nexus between teenagers’ social media usage, cybersecurity and mental health, through a narrative that can relate with. It also aims to create awareness among teenagers, parents, teachers, and the community on the use of the mission.

Oloo is a digital development consultant with a global development partner and a practising psychologist. The books can be purchased from Nuria, Soma Nami, Prestige, Attic and Cheche as well as Amazon bookshops at Sh850.

Oloo says society has a responsibility to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to traverse the digital realm safely and responsibly. “This is why we’re calling on you to join us in our mission to protect Africa’s youth from the unseen dangers of the online world,” Oloo said.

“This is not just a story; it’s a call to action, is a compelling narrative that serves as a much-needed guide for pre-teens and teenagers in our fast-paced, interconnected world.”

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