Over the years, social media has shaped how we relate as mankind, it is no longer necessary to see someone physically to know their status, physical meetings have been moved online, interviews are virtual as well as dating and hookups are as easy as a swipe away.
With the recent Covid-19 pandemic globally, the number of users online has escalated, according to Datareport, there are 4.88 billion internet users in the world today. The total number of internet users around the world grew by 222 million in the past 12 months – more than 600,000 new users each day. In Kenya, there were 21.75 million internet users in January 2021. Internet penetration in Kenya stood at 40.0 per cent. These numbers are expected to rise in 2022.
The penetration of the internet has been facilitated by the availability of affordable internet and smartphones over the years mostly from the Chinese brands. With the younger generation between 18 to 35 years olds dominating Kenya with 25 per cent, they have resorted to finding work online as content creators, social influencers, and disputed online writing.
However, with the evolution full of opportunities we cannot dispute the dangers that this has come with, the emotional torture, cyberbullying, fantasy living as well as the time consumed on the social networks. Parents have raised concerns about the dangers this has posed and the difficult task to control what the children can access online.
For instance, cyberbullying has been a case to tackle over the years. According to statistics from Bullying Statistics, over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet. Most cases of bullying have been recorded to happen to women more.
Conferring to the Association of media women in Kenya and Article 19 of Eastern Africa, it revealed that cases of online harassment happen mostly to women in the course of their duties. These cut across cyber stalking, sexual harassment, unauthorized use, and manipulation of personal information, including images and videos.
With the rising numbers of cyberbullying, every age group has become vulnerable including politicians and journalists. Bullies take advantage of the anonymity of the internet, this calls upon the government to come up with measures to strengthen the regulations in place to fight to cyberbully.
The other factor to look into when it comes to social interaction is the fantasy living that has been happening majorly among the youths. The internet has created a world where everyone wants to be a celebrity with a higher number of engagement, the young generation has bowed to pressure which has resulted in lifestyle faking in results creating a depressed generation. According to the WHO depression factsheet Over 700, 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds, online-related troubles being part of the contributors of stress.
Parents have been on the other side of the tug of war with no clear strategy to win the war, having minimal solutions to the dangers that the online space offer, this is because of the minimal involvement or the lack of know-how when it comes to the online operations. Kids and youths have now the autonomy to decide the platforms they want to access and to what extent, Parents still use the traditional means to cab the behaviors despite being outsmarted.
It is a collective responsibility of society to come up with measures that curb the negative factors that come with internet penetration in the country. The young generation needs to be taught the safe use of the internet and better content creation measures and guidelines. If not solved this is another pandemic looming in a couple of years coming as the new generation takes over the internet with a storm.