By Fatou Dahaba
On Tuesday, Timbuktu Institute (African Center for Peace Studies) held a civic conversation for young people and media members on commitment and civic responsibility at St Anthony’s Basic Cycle School in Kanilai, West Coast Region.
The forum sensitizes students to social media’s negative and positive academic impacts. Social media can benefit students’ education in terms of research, but it can also negatively affect them by distracting them, disrupting their sleep, exposing them to bullying, spreading rumors, unrealistic views of other people’s lives, and peer pressure.
Adji Awa Samb, Head of Cooperation and Regional Projects at Timbuktu Institute, said it is necessary to sensitize students because they are vulnerable and have no knowledge of cyber security.
She told the forum that the internet can be dangerous for young people because scammers do not distinguish between young and old.
“I am delighted to have you all here. This shows that you are interested in the topic. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by social activities. Stay away from it as much as possible, but if you cannot, please use it wisely. You are all young and have a future to build. Take your education seriously, study hard and do research and always be open to your parents and teachers for discussions on issues that affect you and your education,” she told them.
Momodou Lamin Jaiteh, Kaba Communication’s manager, calls for constructive internet use. He urged them to be aware of misinformation and disinformation and its dangers to society.
“In a democracy, you need the information to make informed choices, but you should not allow yourself to spread false news,” he added.
Gallow Ceesay, a Teacher at St Anthony’s Basic Cycle School, said the interface could have been better than now, saying social media consumes students’ time.
He warned students to be aware of dirty websites, scammers, and imposters on the internet while encouraging them to always scrutinize information before sharing and desist from sharing misinformation and disinformation.
“Always compare the information with your teachers and be adaptive and conscious of analyzing posts,” he advised them.
Ousman Kujabi, Village Development Committee Chairman of Kanilai, also advised the students to use the internet best as it can improve their knowledge.
He said young people need to be counseled, thus calling on parents to monitor their children’s online activities.
Alpha Jallow, the Communication Consultant for Timbuktu Institute, said their engagement with the students on youth access to the internet is because some of them can be brainwashed by individuals or organizations who might be working outside The Gambia by manipulating them in exchange for something.
“We believe if we start sensitizing them now on these issues, there is a possibility that they will not fall as victims.”
The seminar concluded with discussions with students as well as contributions from stakeholders.