Awino’s best friend, Fatima, explained to her that her phone service provider offered free internet from midnight to 4:00 am. She suddenly went to bed punctually each night having set her alarm for midnight. Her mother heard her rise and assumed she was studying. She soon discovered YouTube and chat rooms. She now had many friends online. She struggled to make time to study and keep up with her chores at home. At school, the wifi meant she was always thinking about how to connect online. She found an opportunity on Facebook to make many new friends and acquaintances. She felt very popular and happy.
The conversation that we, as African youth workers, have about young people online so often focuses on time wasted by young women on various social media or streaming platforms. Understanding these platforms’ role in young people’s lives is integral to having a conversation with them about the time spent on these platforms.
SUPPORTING YOUNG AFRICAN WOMEN TO USE THE INTERNET WELL
We see young women tired from watching YouTube at 3 AM or using Facebook, TikTok or Instagram at midnight, and we, as youth workers, want to talk to them. It seems so obvious to us that they are wasting their time and energy. When we approach this subject with them, we have found it important to:
- Approach this positively, saying things like “would you like to have more time to achieve more?”
- Avoid negative, closed statements eg ‘Facebook is a waste of time’. These tend to alienate you and discourage further dialogue.
- Focus on the self-empowering aspect of acquiring time management skills. There are plenty of interesting and catchy short courses on time management available online that you could expose them to:
- Involve them in the discussion. You could, for example, share the below picture and have a discussion with them about it.
Discussion opens up avenues of discussing how young women can use social media and technology for their best advantage. This could lead to conversations about time management apps and the time and notification restrictions that they can use to help them.
Share your experiences dealing with these platforms and what you learned from them.
- Which social media platforms do you know about?
- Which platform is most used by the young people that you work with? How do you know?
- Do you understand the sense of belonging that they find on these platforms?
- Do you have an online presence on these platforms?
- How much time do the young people you deal with spend on these platforms?