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Transform the use of social media for youth

By James AtemKuir

Facebook, Twitter, WhatSapp, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok have become a big part of many young people’s social and creative livesaround the world and in South Sudan particularly.

Young people in the countryaccessthese platforms via various devices but most commonly smartphones, to upload and share different contents fordifferent purposes.

But without proper knowledge on the effective use of these web-based forms of mass communication, many young innocent people are exposed to toxic contents andrisks of addiction,leaving them with tremendous negative impacts.

Action for Conflict Resolution (ACR)-a national non-political organization that works to facilitate dialogue across communities and peaceful co-existence conducted a series of workshops on effective use of social media early this month.

With funding from Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), ACR trained about 240 young men and women in four segments in Bentiu Town, Rubkona and Bentiu Protection of Civilian sites (PoCs) to help the selected beneficiariesbenefit from effective use of social media in Unity State.

Peter Gatkuoth, ACR coordinator in Bentiu said the trainings weremeant to equip the youth with knowledge and skills to not only use social media for communication but also help them identify new ways to benefit from these online communities and contribute to development.

Gatkuoth saysthe training will help young people to be problem solvers and promoters of peaceful coexistence in the society and challenge hate speech and online bullying.

“Many young people posts videos, photos and written pieces, trying to incite violence or talk against cultures of others. All these things gave us the idea to come up with this initiative and try to change that,” he said.

“We decided to train a number of youth on how best they can use social media effectively and mitigate hate speech and other vices that break people apart because South Sudan at the moment is tired of conflicts and need peace more than anything,” stressed Gatkuoth.

According to Internet World Stats in December 2020, active social media users in South Sudan have grown to 436, 600, down from 230,000 in 2019.

According Mr. Gatkuoth, many of these active users do not have any idea that social media can also be used to advertise and promote one’s business and artworks.

“We gave them the idea that social media like face-to-face communication can be used for business advertisement. Like you put on your shoes and take a picture and post it for people to see. Maybe, pottery work or artwork, many people from different parts of the world will see it and may buy. Manyof these beneficiaries didn’t know that idea before,” he said.

“The other issue was the use of social media in groupings, where normally different people have community groups. For example, Leer Community association on WhatSappand others. Some of them have intellectual forums which they use to discuss community issues. Others are like-minded people’s groups. If you can train them for constructive ideas and give the resolution to the concerned bodies, it will really benefit everyone in the society,” he stated.

Chigoah Jama, a chairperson of a youth association (Youth Forum) in BentiuPoC says the training has enlightened her about new creative ways she can explore to benefit from the effective use of social media.

“It was our first time to attend such training and I am so happy to have known about effective use of social media.

“We learnt some positive use of social media like, campaigning for social justice and services from the government. And also to promote peace among ourselves by posting peace messages not insults and avoid overstaying online, it’s consumes a lot of time and money,” she said.

Another participant, BinoKiirGatmai applauded ACR and says the workshop has made understand thenegative impact social media can have on co-existence and peace in the society.

“Some people use social media to incite violence and disturb peace. This can really divide people. We can support peace by discussing issues affecting us on our various social media groups and make recommendation to the government.

“We can even mobilize and donate assistance to vulnerable people through social media,” he said.

Tabitha NyajemaKuech says posting things without regard for the impact it can have on the lives of other people, is one vice social media users often do due to lack of awareness about the implications.

She urges social media users to always think about the people affected by their contents and exercise responsibility.

“Some people post pictures images of someone who has died and maybe the relatives have not yet heard aboutthe news. It is so bad,” she said.

“We can use social media to share ideas and help one another learnt from each other. I would like to tell those who post toxic things to change and post things that will help bring good to your audience,” she added.

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