Fr. Jacob Dankasa – My Blog

Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Modern media have penetrated every sphere of human life, and they are influencing the way things are done. By modern media I mean the new media technologies (social media, smartphone/tablet technologies, apps, online games, etc.) which are convergent of the traditional media (television, radio, newspaper, etc.). Central to this convergent media is Internet technology. Because the influence of the modern media is both positive and negative, this article enumerates both the pros and cons of these modern media for the family. Young people of today are certainly born online and raised by technology. This paper is aimed at helping families, especially those raising children, develop a strategy for harvesting the benefits of the growing technology innovations and preventing their pitfalls. The goal is to nurture the family in an online environment guided by ethical and moral values of decency and respect.

The Positive Influence of New Media Technologies for Families

  • They create opportunities for networking among families to keep them together regardless of geographical distance.
  • They have provided families with tools that enable them to form family prayer groups online through group blogs, group chats and conference calls.
  • More families are able to own personal electronic bibles that can be used anywhere and anytime. These can be used for individual or family reflections to enhance and encourage growth in the spiritual life.
  • Modern media tools can be used to create small Christian support groups (e.g., WhatsApp and Facebook pages and groups).
  • They bring families very close to sources of information.
  • New media have exposed more grass-roots people to the process of engagement, especially in democratic and political landscapes.
  • Through social media and the Internet, more people and families find connections that lead to the acquisition of jobs, enrollment in institutions of learning and other opportunities which were previously not possible.

 The Negative Influence of New Media Technologies for Families

  • New ideologies can be spread easily through the Internet and the social media. These are mostly negative ideologies meant to mislead the gullible. They include atheistic ideologies, religious extremism, social behaviors contrary to faith and nature, and other ideologies opposed to family values. Those which promote false sense of independence from one’s culture and family are especially dangerous.
  • In the developing countries of Africa, for example, there is the eroding of cultural values which are replaced by foreign, and often, misunderstood, cultures because they appear flashy on the Internet. Losing the sense of respect in manner of speech, and the distorted understanding of beauty through immodest dressing and disrespect for the body are examples of this cultural erosion.
  • The new technologies provide more access to pornographic and obscene images and videos which takes away intimacy in marital relationships and replaces it with sensual pleasure derived from imaginary objects presented on a screen. A British newspaper carried out a survey which revealed that 66% of women have watched pornographic videos, while nearly nine out of ten men (88%) do the same, and a quarter of them watch such videos every day (The Sun Newspaper, April 2, 2009). This trend is growing worse with increasing access to the Internet through mobile devices.
  • There are many websites today that connect people for sex and immodest dating. These are connect-online-and-meet-offline-sex-matching websites. Through the Internet, cheating is now easier; for example, AshleyMadison.com is a website that facilitates extramarital affairs. When the identities of users were exposed several years ago, many were family people. Similar sex-matching websites are expanding to other parts of the world. These types of websites encourage adultery and destroy the family.
  • Pedophiles infiltrate the Internet and commit sexual crimes with vulnerable children.
  • The growing use of mobile phones and chat applications for sexting is a destructive trend. People send nude photos of themselves with others, sometimes with strangers. This is carried out by both children and adults. This is a dangerous trend that works against decent family values.
  • Modern media can take away good human relationships. Some people may relate more to their smartphones than to members of their family. In such situations, someone other than the parent or other family member, may have great influence over a child, a husband or a wife than his parents or spouse. Never underestimate the danger that such external influences can pose to the existence of a family.

How the Church Can Help Families

Despite the negative influences that the modern media are capable of exerting on the family, I strongly believe that the benefits of the new media technologies outweigh the negatives. We live in a generation that is highly influenced by the new technologies, and this trend will only grow, not slow down. Young people of today are born into this movement of technology take-over. In the future, that may be all they know and use. What is needed is to teach people how to use these new media technologies to engage in positive activities that will help, and not destroy, them. The challenges are even greater for African families because of the gap that exists between the young and the old in technology adoption in Africa. The gap between young Internet-savvy users and parents is presumably large among African families, considering the interest level difference between the old and the young and the age gap of Internet users in Africa. This gap between young and old Internet users is gradually closing in the Western world, though it is still wide. But the excesses of usage may even be more difficult for African families to control because many people in Africa access the Internet on private cellphones, not through computers that can be guided and controlled by parents or supervisors.

The negatives of the new media technologies pose some special challenges to families raising young children. The Church needs to come to the rescue, to help families develop ethical standards on the use of Internet technology guided by Christian values. Below are some suggestions for the Church and its functionaries.

  • Develop and engage families in educational awareness programs on the benefits of the new media and their potential dangers. Parents who are not familiar with how the Internet works are more likely to ignore the dangers. Organize diocesan and parish seminars that target parents and children. These events should be conducted by experts in this area.
  • Promote and encourage families to engage in the use of the tools of the new media. Parents of young children should communicate with their children and have access to their social media platforms. Parents should be encouraged to join their children in using the social media. It is not enough to give rules to children; parents must lead by example. Discuss issues with children in a way that is nonthreatening. Merely stating the right and wrong, or even cautioning young children on the dangers of the Internet alone, is not sufficient to keep them from engaging in unwelcome practices. Parents should teach family values to their children on the Internet. Therefore, participation of parents in social media is very important.
  • Families should be encouraged to organize family activities frequently to increase the bonds among family members (e.g. sports, reunions, and celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries of marriages). This may likely minimize dependency on media technology that may be harmful to family relationships. This type of dependency removes an individual from the family and places his interest more on a piece of technology or on an outsider. There should be a balance between the use of the new media and participation in family activities.
  • Families should be encouraged to use a variety of media and resources to check facts about issues. Not everything on the Internet is factual or true. Education on this aspect will minimize the dangers of indoctrination with the wrong ideologies of religion, culture or atheistic values that are often found on the Internet.
  • The Church should provide precise answers to issues that concern faith and morals and educate people on the best and most credible Internet sites or media to use when seeking relevant answers to their questions or concerns.
  • Church leaders (bishops, clergy and religious) must learn, understand and get acquainted with the knowledge of current social, moral and religious issues in order to provide informed answers to people’s questions. Families should be encouraged to seek counsel with their pastors on controversial issues, especially about the Church and society, that are often misrepresented on the Internet. This means that the pastor must be familiar with these issues. There is a need for continuing education for pastors on these issues.
  • Finally, church leaders must learn and practice how to best use the tools of the modern media in order to teach others. Our society is growing more sophisticated through the new technologies. Church leaders that ignore this fact may find themselves irrelevant and left behind in the future of evangelization.
Advertisements

The scenario of ‘no electricity’ is not new to me. In fact, I have endured more than a day of blackout. For those of us who come from countries that power supply is not stable this has been a misery experience. I travelled to my country, Nigeria in spring this year. I had to charge my phone in the car sometimes because that is a better source of power for me. I have to stay off my favorite TV shows, and fold my laptop when the battery goes down, only to wait for hours, perhaps, power may come back. On the alternative, spend some money on powering a generator machine to get some light. It is quite an unpleasant experience!
I had to contend with no Internet for days and sometimes have to go to the cyber café to connect to the Internet. This was miserable for the fact that I like surfing the web, checking my emails or connecting to my social networking forum on the go. Although the mobile phone service providers are making tremendous progress in making Internet service available to subscribers, the Internet connections are still super slow, and getting something better comes with a price. However, I must say though that the provision of Internet by service providers is getting better, but the electricity supply is still epileptic. Therefore, I had to get alternative means of electricity or stay in Blackout several hours. The popular means of connection to some form of limited Internet is through the cell phones, but I cannot get the serious stuff, such as my class work, done with this limited connection. The technology connection is only one little piece of a large pie of the inconvenience that lack of electricity brings.
I wish we had fall break!

Blogs and Wikis are very important additions to the learning process. Although people have different purposes for operating a blog or Wiki, one single uniting factor is for the purpose of sharing information. Duffy and Bruns (2006) opine that blogs and wikis explore flexible and mobile technologies for collaborative and (co)creative purposes, as well as for the critical assessment and evaluation of information. Blogging as a versatile phenomenon catering for variety of people “has evolved from its early origin as a medium for the publication of simple, online personal diaries, to the latest disruptive technology, the ‘killer app’ that has the capacity to engage people in collaborative activity, knowledge sharing, reflection and debate” (Williams & Jacobs, 2004; citing Hiler, 2003).

I explored some blogs. Among them are two for educational purposes and one religious. I looked at a blog called Education Next (http://educationnext.org//). It is a journal for opinion and research. Another blog is This Week in Education (www.scholasticadminstrator.typepad/thisweekineducation). Here students give updates about their readings for the previous week. It has a link for teachers, parents, kids and administrators. One religious blog I looked at is the blog for the Catholic Bishop of Dallas (http://bishopfarrell.blogspot.com). The bishop as the chief shepherd of his diocese uses this blog to communicate and to teach his faithful.

In most of these blogs I observed that people comment on issues that are particularly interesting to them. There are a lot of postings that go without a single comment which shows that there is selective interest on the topics posted.

I explored wikis such as Sugar River HOSA (http://sugarriverhosa.wetpaint.com/). This wiki is specially made for grades 10-12, a high school course, two college courses and a licensing program. It is for Health Occupations Student Association. Students get information on events that are related to the local health. It contains students’ homework and schedules of activities.

Another Wiki is the Microbiowiki (http://microbiowiki.wetpaint.com). It is a wiki site for students, teachers, and those interested in learning about the human anatomy, mainly for undergraduates, but high school students may participate.
Using blogs and wikis for instructional purpose are beneficial for a lot of reasons. Few of these benefits include:
1. Blogs can be student-centered offering the learner the opportunity to get involved beyond a discussion forum.
2. One needs little or no technical background to make updates to blog, as Duffy and Bruns (2006) calls it the “novice’s web authoring tool.”
3. Contents can easily be filtered by entries and information shared can be retrieved easily in the future.
4. Wikis are capable of offering the summary of one’s contribution and progress so far which is important for one’s assessment.
5. Wikis offer opportunity for students to share their knowledge and make updates where necessary when something that is hitherto not known is learnt.

The drawbacks I see in blogs and wikis are the fact that extra care has to be made in postings within blogs. Long and boring postings are mostly not read in entirety. Research has shown that most people gloss through online reading when it is poorly organized or too long (Sri & Panayiotis,2001). In addition, younger people in most cases don’t visit blogs. They prefer the social networks (Dankasa, 2010). So some interesting features that include visual presentation and pictures may invite them to the blogs.

References

Dankasa, J. (2010). New Media as tools for Evangelization: Towards Developing Effective Communication Strategy in the Catholic Church. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. St. Cloud State University, Minnesota.

Duffy, P. D., & Bruns, A. (2006). The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, 26 Sep. 2006, Brisbane.

Sri H. K., & Panayiotis Z. Reading Online or on Paper: Which is Faster? http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.12.2890&rep=rep1&type=pdf.

Williams, J. B., & Jacobs, J. S., (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), pp. 232-247.

Latest statistics show Nigeria ranking second in Internet Usage in the whole of Africa after Egypt. In a 2009 data released by Internet World Stats, the number of Internet Users in Nigeria has risen from 200, 000 in 2000 to about 10,000,000 at the end of 2008. This shows an increase in Internet usage of about 4,900% (www.internetworldstats.com). This indicates remarkable growth. However, considering the importance of the internet today and the fact that Nigeria has a growing population of over 140 million people, this number is by far below average. It means that only 6.8% of Nigerians are Internet users.
Governments of African countries have to focus greater attention in making the continent technology efficient looking at the turn of events in world politics today. Cyber communication is used in almost every sphere of interactions in international matters. The way governments relate to governments of different nations, the way news and information are distributed and the way commerce is carried out have all changed, thanks to the Internet. Those who are equipped with greater technology seem to benefit more from the present information revolution. Countries like Japan, America and Western Europe are at the Apex of framing what constitute international issues today. What becomes world news is whatever the transnational translate to us and these are mainly concentrated in the industrialized countries. The Internet gives access to personalized media and people of all orientations can make their voices heard through the use of the Internet. The activities of bloggers are few examples of such. Those who have greater access to the Internet have better chances of participating in information flow and dominating the scenario of international politics.
There are major international concerns on Africa in respect to the development of cyber news and global economic and political issues; “experts warn that unless Africa gets online quickly, what is already the world’s poorest continent risks ever-greater marginalization” (Hachten and Scotten, 2007). Our problem in Africa is not that we do not want the new media, but we lack the necessary economic and social infrastructure to maintain the system; or better put, our governments are either late majority or laggards when it comes to new innovations. Late majority are skeptics who only adopt new innovation because of economic or increasing network pressure (Severin &Tankard, 2001); while Laggards are traditional-minded people whose point of reference is the past and very reluctant to adopt new ideas. African governments have to make Internet technology a priority or else we will be cut off from a lot of things that matter. At present Africa accounts to about 3.4% of the entire world’s Internet users (www.internetworldstats.com) a staggering low rate.
The internet is a major contributor to economic growth of nations at this time. People carry out businesses through the internet, shop online, and carry out activities online that will save cost and time and at the same time boost the economy of a nation. I look forward to seeing a Nigeria where people can stay at home, order a product and get it right on their door without the usual hustle and bustle of market rush; or a Nigeria where majority of our people are stake holders in the contribution towards national and international issues, where people have a say on any issue that concerns them devoid of the usual editorializing and filtering of self-interested gate keepers. Our government must know that nations that do better in national and international affairs are those whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms and have most access to multiple channels of communication so as to have more influence over how issues are framed (Joseph S. Nye, 2002). Citizens have greater roles in contributing to these issues. This calls for patience and tolerance on the side of government to open itself to scrutiny. Most governments who apply this openness do better. Freedom of the press therefore is sacrosanct to effective democratic and nation building. Our government must move towards making Nigeria an Internet efficient country.

Tags: