BY WERNER COHILL
IT IS A GROWING CONCERN now that social networking is widespread among most young people whether in school or not in Papua New Guinea.
Facebook has become a common social networking site and its membership continues to increase. Most of these young people have become more addicted to it that it often contributes towards their performance in school and increases their vulnerability to other social degrading issues.
What are the issues at stake with social networking among young people? What should be done to address social networking among young people?
This article discusses the issues relating to the social networking sites, notably Facebook, as it has become a number one social networking site among most young Papua New Guineans. The article sheds some light on the advantages of social networking by providing examples.
But the disadvantages will be emphasized the most because the consequences are far more practical than one expects. Why should the young people know about social networking? What should the parents or guardians do and what sort of measures should the Government do in addressing this concern.
Papua New Guinea’s date with destiny has been rapidly replaced in this epoch of globalization: the growing interconnectedness of states through the revolution in information technologies and the global mobility of people.
Social networking alludes to the connectivity between people through the internet. There are so many different types which are established for different reasons. For example, one of the uses for their establishment includes finding friends and partners. Though, dating and finding partners seems not to be as rife in Papua New Guinea as in other countries, the chances for it to gain momentum are increasing.
The purposes of establishing such network sites may be cunning in some ways because it is all about making money. Online users get registered through paying their members fees using their credit cards. The duration of entertainment on such sites depends on how much they have paid for. This reciprocates the saying ‘money talks women walks’. This is social networking at its worst and most explicit.
Facebook is among one of the recent and the most commonly used sites throughout the world. In Papua New Guinea, there is no exception as it has some thousands of members actively updating their profiles, day in day out. It is worth singling out this particular site because it is easily accessible and very simple to join.
This is one reason why it is getting Papua New Guineans, most notably the young school and non-school leavers to become members. Membership is free and the services provided are compelling for first-timers. So what has really helped spiral these young people into Facebooking?
The introduction and the competition in the mobile phone industries in Papua New Guinea recently has gradually increased the pace at which the people go about doing their normal activities, be it business or pleasure.
It is possible to go online in the palm of the hands. There is no need to access the internet in the workplace or through an internet café but rather just by using a mobile phone; it worth noting that most young people nowadays prefer phones that have internet access. As the price of such phones continue to decrease, there seems to be no control over where they can go online and what they do online.
Social networking sites like Facebook allow us to connect with our family and friends, school friends and work mates, including those that we meet during our working hours or social gatherings. By connecting with family members one will get updates from relatives and are informed of the latest happenings within their family. With school friends and workmates, by connecting with them, we are able to inform each other of our achievements and work or school related issues or just mere gossip and fun.
Facebook has also become a forum where national and international issues are discussed at length and interestingly, anyone can comment on issues without fear or favour. These issues range from politics, education, environment, sports and so on. More so, it has also become a notice board for social gatherings and advertisements.
While we appreciate the wonders that social networking sites like Facebook has fed us with, let’s not forget how such sites can cost our resources and even our lives. There are serious issues relating to the use of social networking sites, but we don’t realise them until something happens.
Upon joining Facebook, members are asked to complete their basic personnel details beginning with name, sex and the age. Some information is more confidential when the details of home, workplace and contact details are provided as requested.
Do we know that we are marketing ourselves to the world? This put us in a dangerous and inviting situation. We are inviting internet predators into our lives and putting our privacy at stake. This may sound foreign to most of us but it’s the reality. We have read in print media and watched on television instances where young people are lured by internet predators to become their friends.
Such friendships may end up with young people becoming victims of these predators. Unwanted pregnancies among young girls and the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and AIDS can be the end result. In Papua New Guinea such activities have not made headlines yet but it does not mean that they are not happening.
Members, notably young girls, posting pictures may be harmful and warrants flammable comments from friends and friends of your friends. You may know your friends but not your friends’ friends. One may go against this idea as the denial of the freedom of expression, but everything must have limits. Once we do something beyond these limits or our capabilities, the repercussions are gross.
Furthermore, there are other related issues worth considering which underpin the world of social networking. Bullying in schools can take its toll through social networking sites. Although there is meagre evidence in our schools to say this is happening it is dangerous and can lead young people to commit suicide.
Social networking sites are a time consuming and money wasting activity. Social networks, like Facebook, can take up so much time that there is little left to spend time doing something productive at home, at school or at work. We may think an hour of chatting is alright but without knowing it one will be surprised to realise school assignments are not completed.
Information technologies are replacing our traditional and cultural way of exercising and participating in daily chores. We may feel deprived of our rights but we have to somehow cope with these changes. These changes may be good or they may be bad. Let’s take on the good ones while applying appropriate measure when dealing with the bad.
As young people and as leaders of tomorrow let’s not be blinded by the matrix of social networking sites as they are less effective at contributing towards our lives and our future. Let’s concentrate on other areas that will be of great benefit to us, now and into the future.
Reading books is one of the most important and informative approaches to understanding life. We have to marry books now and see how that marriage will go and where will it end up. Let’s Think Big, by applying Dr. Ben Carsons’ testament in life.
As parents we are duty bound to bring up our children physically and morally to reflect biblical aspirations and societal obligations. Let’s be concerned about how our young ones are using the internet and accessing social sites like Facebook. Seriously, we must talk to our children about the dangers of such social networking sites and give them our piece of mind about the consequences they can suffer from them.
History tells us that our governments and related authorities only react to the aftermath of man-made and natural disasters. There is absence of ‘being prepared and alert’. We are not prepared on all fronts to address issues relating to our health, environment, and welfare.
The onus is now on those responsible state agencies and organisations responsible to take a proactive approach now to addressing social networking among our young ones before it is too late.
Werner Cohill (31) was born at Alexishafen in Madang Province. He is a parliamentary officer attached to the parliamentary committee secretariat section of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea