Youth development initiatives to capitalize on social media

By Karen Gwinisa

The introduction of mobile internet has caused many youths to become addicted to social sites to the extent that most youths in urban areas are living the greater parts of their lives online.

While social networking sites help youths remain in touch with other people by facilitating cheaper and faster ways of communicating, they have also made youths become anti-social to their immediate neighbours. As a result of economic instability and deindustrialization in Bulawayo, most youths in Luveve are unemployed. However, they seem to be content with their situations as long as they can keep in touch with friends in the virtual world. As such, technology and social media is creating a society of isolated individualistic young people offline.

While there is a lot that young people can learn online, there is the danger that parents have no control of the kind of advice these youths get online so they are left vulnerable to being misled. For instance, some sites also act as online dating platforms that expose youths to immoral activities such as pornography. In some cases this results in them engaging in early sexual activity exposing them to STIs, HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies.

A brief survey with young people from Luveve showed that young people have no interest in the youth center as they feel it is boring, has outdated equipment and no interesting activities that are attractive to them.

Therefore it is critical for young people themselves to revolutionize the youth centers and lobby the relevant stakeholder to avail new advanced technology that will be attractive to youths. Given the fact that the youths in Luveve are already spending most of their time online, initiatives in the youth centers could be focused on giving them knowledge of how best they can use social media and the internet to develop themselves by finding opportunities online rather than focusing on immorality.

Karen Gwinisa is one of the youths trained by the NYDT in citizen journalism and effective use of ICTs. She is currently doing her A’levels and writes in her personal capacity.

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