School has reopened once more, and parents and guardians are putting together their funds to ensure that their children have a smooth transition into the new school year. Yet there is a clear and present danger that many parents fail to protect their children from. Social Media. Due to a lack of information, and the assumption that if anything negative is going on, their child will confide in them, many parents allow their children free reign of devices from mobile phones to tablets and computers. In the case of social media’s effect on teens, this is rarely the case. In today’s Ghana 8.8 million people use social media. Use of WhatsApp is also virtually universal in Ghana, with a reported 95% of people in Ghana who use the internet using WhatsApp. Silas Kwame Ocansey’s 2021 study found that about 8% of Ghanaian teens spend 19 hours a day online, while 15% of Ghanaian teens spend 15 hours a day online. Not only is this tendency unhealthy, excessive use of social media also has awful effects on teens' ability to concentrate in school which leads to poor grades like we are seeing in the current crop of BECE graduates who even with aggregate 30+ are expecting to magically attend grade A schools. But is there any way to control teens’ use of social media?
Yesterday, graphic online published an article where the Deputy Majority Leader in Parliament, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, implored that a law banning social media use by teens must be established to avoid the disintegration of the social fabric of our country. This law would penalize parents and guardians who fail to enforce the rules, and they would face punitive fines. Although some may see this measure as extreme, it is what is necessary to halt the descent of Ghanaian youth into ignominy. Excessive use of social media has many terrible effects on teens, and I am going to list a few below.
1.Cyberbullying. Some children are bullied so excessively online that they completely lose their sense of self, which leads them to further extreme action down the line. Additionally, it is necessary to examine the effects of those teens who get away with bullying in the online setting. They learn that there is no adult supervision, and in this world, they can be as mean as they want while presenting an innocent face in in-person interactions. This can lead to the breeding of more sociopathic tendencies in our society.
2.Addiction to Sports Betting. Part of the reason Sports Betting in Ghana became popular so quickly is the ubiquity of social media. With odds being shared on Telegram, Twitter and Facebook, the vice is more accessible to young people than ever. When in the past, Lott meant you had to physically walk to a kiosk and potentially risk someone who know your parents catching you in the act and reporting you, now betting can be done from the comfort of these teens’ phones.
3.Body image issues. Many teens these days refuse to dress or act like teens. They follow celebrities like the Khardashians and believe that their hair and their clothes must always be ‘on fleek’. While that is damaging enough, the desire for plastic surgery among teens is rising because they are unsatisfied with their bodies, which by the way are still developing, and are unlikely to mature into their final forms until around age 25.
4.Depression. The CDC in the US released an article this February highlighting the increased sadness and violence that US teen girls are experiencing due to the conditions they live in. Ghana must not wait for one such study to come out to acknowledge that we must take steps to fix what is going to turn into a storm soon. As the world becomes more interconnected via the internet, so too are our teens, and what teens are experiencing on the other side of the world could soon become or reality in Ghana. Yet unlike the US, Ghana is not equipped with numerous psychiatrists and counselors to help teens in the future. Our limited resources mean that we have to be proactive.
5.Suicide. In 2021, Brigham Young University published the results of a ten year study on the long term effects of social media on teens where they discovered that there is an elevated suicide risk from teen girls using social media more and more
I hope that reading this short list will give parents and guardians some knowledge on what is awaiting their children if they do not exercise some control over social media now. It can be difficult, because oftentimes, a YouTube video might be the only thing that keeps a child entertained while you attempt to complete essential tasks. Instead, introduce your child to reading and take them to one of the numerous libraries that have been commissioned over the past couple of years, so that they develop healthier hobbies. Playing sports, learning a craft skill, or even just socializing in person with other teens are all healthier ways to interact with the world.
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