WINDHOEK - Miss Namibia 2018, Selma Kamanya, has initiated a stand against cyberbullying following the beauty shaming of the 2019 Miss Namibia semi-finalists on social media platforms a month ago.
As part of her duty as a spokesperson to young people, last week Kamanya initiated a panel discussion at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) with the aim to inform and educate the youth to hold hands and stand up against cyberbullying in the country.
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying using electronic means and it has become increasingly common, especially among the youth in the country.
The panel discussion, whose aim was also to raise awareness on the dangers of gadgets and social media, was attended by social media specialists including digital creative director at Mo Shé Media, Dr Mohammed Shehu, and clinical psychologists Anina du Toit and Meunajo Tjiroze.
According to a local weekly newspaper, Namibian youth are at risk of being exposed to cyberbullying with the increasing access to mobile and computer gadgets.
Shehu, who is also the youngest Ph.D. holder in Namibia, said that social media is not problem, rather it is how people use it that is a problem.
"Social media is addictive and it was designed that way. Social media should be used by people who are ready to handle the consequence that comes with it," Shehu added.
According to Tjiroze who is an expert in social media, cyberbullying among young people mostly stems from their spending a lot of time on social media platforms or watching too much television than engaging in social activities and getting to understand people better.
Tjiroze believes that cyberbullying does not emerge on its own; it also starts in people who are exposed to violence.
"Young people do not know how to navigate social media and parents should follow their children on social media platforms and monitor what they do, to avoid cyberbullying among young people," she advised.
In reference to the 2019 semi-finalists, one of the contestants who was bullied and criticised because of her physical appearance was Rejoice Marowa, who seemed to be strong and never gave up on competing for one of the top 12 finalists positions despite all the social media criticism.
Alvaro media group founder Kalistu Mukoroli blamed the organisers of Miss Namibia 2019 for not stopping comments on their social media pages when they noticed that "things were getting out of hand" and their contestants were being treated harshly.
He added: "The organisers could have done something about it because when they uploaded pictures of the semi-finalists, they were ready for all kinds of comments."
Namibian social media Influencer and television personality Nguvitjita Mberirua was also part of the panel discussion and as a victim of cyberbullying she shared the message of hope to other young people.
"It takes someone with a strong character to overcome cyberbullying. Cyberbullying totally breaks people down. Bullies do not only talk about your physical appearance, they also attack your career, your personal life and your family," the emotional Mberirua said, adding that it takes time to heal after being bullied.
Mberirua urged the victims of cyberbullying to always look for therapy to re-discover themselves. "When you are bullied on social media, take a break from social media to overcome and heal," said Mberirua.
Patricia Muteka, a 16-year-old learner at Delta Secondary School said that among her fellow learners cyberbullying is caused by people who find pleasure in trying to make themselves superior by making others feel inferior.
Muteka, who said she is addicted to social media and that she cannot live without her mobile phone, opined that spending a lot of time on social media has drastically contributed to cyberbullying.
"Psychologically, if someone spends more time on screens, it affects their health and the cognitive ability among children. People should not spend more than two hours a day on screen. It increases anxiety in children and reduces their thinking capabilities," Du Toit stressed.