Joshua Haileyesus: Why everyone involved in Nigeria’s adolescent enterprise must today consider harmful social media challenges

Joshua Haileyesus was a twelve-year-old American boy from the state of Colorado who lost his life last month because he took part in the Blackout Challenge, one of the many social media challenges that now dot the social media landscape. Participants in the particular challenge were required to choke themselves until they became unconscious. Weird? Indeed, many of the challenges are really weird. Today, weird is actually marketed as fun and pleasurable in some instance. Instructively, another child from Italy had died from the same Blackout Challenge in the early part of the year.

Increasingly, we are seeing disturbing videos of children and teenagers participating in social media, clearly unaware of the dangers hidden from their view. The other day, the video of a child (who could not have been more than four years old) was seen smoking shisha and exhaling the smoke through his mouth and nose, while an adult sat by taking in the scene. The look on the child’s face was very disturbing. He looked like he enjoyed the attention he was being given. What does a child under four years know of the harmful components of shisha?

Parents who have taken time to observe some of the TRUTH OR DARE CHALLENGES dangled before many adolescents whether in school or online would agree that calling them weird is an understatement. Those who have gone a step further to investigate the reasons for the interest of many adolescents in these exercises have fingered search for approval as a primary cause. Many adolescents love to be seen by their peers as cool, calm and collected. Or simply hot! Any challenge or exercise that promises these outcomes is perceived as attractive and usually come highly recommended from one adolescent to another.

Because of the pull of the hustle in today’s Nigeria, adolescents who ordinarily should engage the attention of everyone involved in Nigeria’s adolescent enterprise, have gone down some notches on the ladder of consideration. The disturbing level of insecurity across the country has further complicated the situation, meaning that conversations about safe social media use may not be considered at all. Daily, we are inundated with news about deaths of young and old people such that some might begin to think it is not a priority to consider more deeply harmful social media challenges targeted at adolescents. But we must. It is the duty of the adults to protect the young and impressionable, regardless of the pull of any hustle. What would it profit us if we succeed at the table of the hustle but lose our adolescents?

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