The phone has evolved from being a mere communication gadget to a necessity. Paying for utilities a while back required one to get a bill in the mail, then locate the nearest office where one would queue in order to pay for it. Sending money over long distances required that people do it via a bank or find a trusted acquaintance to hand deliver it. Buying items required one to go to a deport or designated business to do so.
All this has changed. The digital boom has seen the economy embrace an online presence in ways no one for saw. The revolutionary M-pesa has seen banks change how they relate to customers. E-commerce has seen many retail outlets innovate their business models. Social media sites have seen people connect from all over the world. Video streaming has affected how traditional broadcasters deliver content. The increase in internet speeds and wider coverage has allowed more people to be connected. For any business to thrive today, it has to adapt or perish.
These changes have disrupted the norm in ways that few could have foreseen. It is unfortunate that not all change is good. Being ‘digital’ means that people are spending more time online, an environment that remains largely unregulated and liberal. The effects of long time exposure have not been fully understood yet and data on the subject is scanty. However, there have been a few case studies done on children. Some of the research points to shocking effects of digital heroin on children. To mitigate the negative effects, users have to exercise some restraint and digital intelligence.
This is the art of understanding what the online community has to offer, the negative effects and how to be a digitally sound citizen. An adult with a cognizant mind is able to do so but not so for children. It is for this reason that grown ups, more so parents, be media mentors for children and teenagers.
Facebook launched Messanger for kids in early 2018, a move that was met with hostility from parents and child development experts. The social media giant that pulled the biggest bait and switch in history, the idea that the App will not feature any Ads or paid content seems calculating. The new platform that is targeting kids as young as 6 years old could just be a gateway to ensure ease of transition to Facebook once they come of age.
Research has indicated that social media as a whole as well as unmonitored unlimited screen time has negative effects such as addiction, cyber bullying, low self esteem, obscessive compulsive behavior, mood swings and many decreased social skills, among other things. For this reason, parents need to have the appropriate knowledge to enable them bring up good digital citizens.
Eveminet in partnership with Richmele International have a program on this called Savvy Kids Africa – Made in Africa for the world.