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Digital Age crowd needs to be taught ethics

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By JEREMIAH KIPLANG’AT
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The general feeling in Kenya is, we lag behind as regards good behaviour on digital platforms. This year, you must have been insulted or did insult someone on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp or another social interaction site. Or read or seen an insult directed at someone.

Insult is quite euphemistic here because what some people write on those sites are beyond that; they border character assassination, if they aren’t.

The Ambira Boys clip, which captured the teenagers saying unpalatable things and insulting two senior state officers, easily comes to mind. The video is repugnant; the President led their condemnation.

Although the boys were released after the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence in court, one thing was clear: We are breeding a generation that is too willing to throw any word at anyone.

From the ensuing heated debate, it was clear that technology had made it easier for the current generation to speak out. That the obscurity provided by these sites has fanned misbehaviour.

The President, and others who were quick to point the finger at the boys, grew up in an era when raising one’s voice against an older person was an abomination.

This is the age when public confrontation is considered as bravery. Keeping quiet is seen as cowardice; not speaking out is for weaklings.

And social media is the perfect arena for these public confrontations. Reason?

Smartphones are easily accessible and joining the sites is as easy as ABC. And, remarkably, anonymity can easily be achieved on them, enabling those who want to commit every kind of sin to do so without fear of being exposed. Age is just a number; nobody cares how old you are.

Clearly, nothing much has been, or is being, done to guide this technology-mad generation on how to interact online. Also missing is the appreciation that the mind of today is strongly linked to social media — so strongly that those not on such sites are considered digital outcasts from past centuries.

But instead of public condemnation and threats, it’s better to develop responsible social media users. That can easily be done through taught subjects in schools and universities, or programmes by human resource departments in public and private companies.

The current education system has never really focused on developing individuals to relate with other people. That is mostly left to parents and, maybe, one or two concerned teachers at school. Yet most of these parents are ages behind their children on technology.

Maybe the new curriculum seeks to cure this but, even before it is rolled out, the Ministry of Education should intervene. Social ethics should be taught in school. Some schools taught Social Education Ethics as a subject some time back but that was for the pre-digital era. Now this should be made compulsory and current.

Most companies have policies on various aspects, such as sexual harassment at the workplace. It would be wrong not to have rules on how workers behave on these sites. A structured guidance on the platforms is urgently needed — so that you can raise your voice without insulting anyone.

Mr Kiplang’at is the Regional Editor, North Rift, at Nation Media Group. [email protected]

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