We cannot always build a future for the youth but we can build our youth for the future.Franklin. D. Roosevelt
In the space of a few weeks, Awino has changed from a somewhat ‘simple village girl’ to a popular, connected city girl, thanks to her new smartphone. The speed of this transformation is a peculiarity of the digital world. Everything seems to happen very fast. On the outside, there is nothing to show how much Awino’s life has changed, and nobody prepared her for this change.
The story of Awino illustrates the fact that a youth worker should not be a firefighter, trying to put out fires as they erupt. How do we help young women and girls be ready for the digital world’s benefits, challenges and dangers? In your work with the youth, do you consider the digital world a normal topic of conversation? Do we assume that girls from poorer backgrounds are not affected by digital? This view may have been true a few years ago, but young African women are now connected online. Many have smartphones, and others have friends or family members with smartphones. Are we aware of how fast this world is changing and its impact on their lives?
Sometimes, our reluctance is based on the fact that we ourselves are not familiar with or up to date with digital technology – it can be easy, if we haven’t grown up with it, to see it as a ‘luxury’ or ‘option’. Digital technology and the internet are a fundamental part of young people’s lives and we must be prepared to help them to be ready for it.
- Am I comfortable speaking to young people about the digital world?
- Do I have a basic understanding of social media with its pros and cons?
- Do I understand the importance of being positive in my approach toward the online presence of youth and social media in general?
- Is this a topic that I broach freely, preparing the youth who may not be in touch with digital technology and accompanying those who are?
- Do I appreciate the importance of having a plan or guide which helps me to prepare young people for the digital world?