New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Is Social Networking Harmful Than Good?

Eenhana — "I have been there, done that, saw and conquered......" This phrase is usually used by parents when advising children.

The battle between modernity and tradition has always taken centre stage in human existence since time immemorial. Now the fight has taken a deadly twist with technology providing a new field for this generation and old battle. Social networks have become part of everyday life, especially for teenagers. When the phrase, "if butterfly flaps its wings in Japan, a hurricane will happen on the coasts of Florida," was no less true when it was coined in the early 1960s than it is today.

The world has indeed shrunk. Events, no matter how small they might seem whether political, social or economical, might have far-reaching consequences on another place, thanks to social media. Some say social networks have brought harm than good, and a lot of children now spend too much time on Facebook, Skype and Twitter and it's now where they meet their friends and future lovers.

"I can safely say gone are the days when we would read letters and run around with postage stamps because now its all "Whatsapp", says Melisa Ndakondja (16) from Eenhana Senior Combined School adding that the social media allows people to voice what they want. A teacher at a local government school, Patrick Tulipamwe says what is wrong with social media is that there is no parental control. "As good as this might seem, social networks are proving to have negative consequences for our children today. If children's everyday life is structured around a constant stream of posts, comments and tweets, it becomes a social hazard," says Tulipamwe

Issues like cyber bulling, online predators, reputation damage and inappropriate content are all unfortunate realities of social networking. In this regard, it is therefore wise for parents alike to know what their children are doing online.

Annakie Haufeni, a final year student in the Information Technology course with IOL institute at Ongwediva, says some of the consequences that may befall massive user of social networks, are that children often do not understand the risks involved in giving out too much personal information on the internet.

"This is of particular worry when such information is given to an individual who your child does not know personally. They may argue that someone is an online "friend" but to all intents and purpose that person is effectively a stranger. To many children, the online world is not the same as the real world and they can often behave in a way they would never do face to face, and say things they would never say, Annakie says

This, she adds, leaves them much more vulnerable in an online environment. They may also be less protective of personal details such as their mobile phone numbers or addresses, which could have undesirable implications for them," she explains

Teenagers and young people need to be very wary of broadcasting events such as birthdays. They have been several cautionary headlines involving children who have posted details of house parties on social networking sites to find their event is gate-crashed.

According to some research, another negative consequence of social networking is cyber bullying. Cyber bullying happens when malicious statements are posted online. It may have negative implications on the child's mental growth, as well as emotional growth. Cyber stalking or harassment on the internet is also one bad result of social networking. Cyber stalking is when an individual is harassed or continually being pursued by people online whether friends or strangers. Cyber stalking is an innocent and harmless as it seems, might have serious implications such as when it makes the victim feel unsafe whenever on the internet.

Parents complain that the use of social networks has made children lose interest in school or outward games. Thomas Ndashipamumwe says: "The coming of Facebook has impacted negatively on children. My son if l ask him which sport he plays at school he says sports are boring." He goes on to add: "These days as parents we no longer talk to our children, they are always on Whatsapp, Facebook or Twitter."

Many parents have also alluded to what Thomas Ndashipamumwe says, stating social networks are breaking that social fabric that used to bind families together. The talking over dinner is non-existent.

From the interview conducted, Youth Corner discovered that many parents now fear that they are being drawn farther and farther away from their children.Thomas Ndashipamumwe, a father and teacher by profession at Okongo Primary School, says: "This monster called Face Book is slowly taking our children from us," adding jokingly: " I don't know who will bury us?"

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