Inspire Minds Conference: Teens expose excessive use of social media

By Folasade Akpan

Some teens say excessive and uncontrolled teenage use of social media can lead to mental health issues.

They mentioned it Wednesday in Abuja at the Teen Mental Health Awareness Conference organized by the Inspire Minds Education Foundation.

According to teens, social media addiction can lead to no or less time to study or do other things that are beneficial to them, or lead to porn sites.

Coming from various high schools in Abuja, participants also said that depression could come from seeing things on social media that they couldn’t achieve.

They added that depression could also come from watching the fake life some people lead that they would love to have at any cost.

However, they said reducing time spent on social media to focus on learning, interacting constructively with peers and others, and parenting guidance can help teens avoid mental health pitfalls.

Miss Victory Ekong, the foundation’s teenage ambassador, said anxiety, depression, constant pressure on a teen are all things that can lead to teen mental health.

She also said that beyond social media, problems with home, school and society as a whole can lead to mental health problems.

However, she said that through the foundation’s interventions and workshops, she has come to understand that stable mental health is paramount to a teenager’s well-being.

She added that “I’ve also come to understand that teenagers need attention and that mental health is not something to joke about; in fact, it is a more serious matter than people think.

“I’m more stable in my mental health now because I’m aware that it’s a natural state and I try to avoid issues that can lead to a mental health breakdown.”

Mrs. Constance Egwuatu, professional counselor for children and youth and one of the animators in
conference, said many young people are now struggling with mental health issues.

She added that they could not talk about mental health issues for fear of being stigmatized or perceived as having spiritual problems.

She said many didn’t even know what exactly was wrong with them because they weren’t seeking help for their depression.

“Some people isolate themselves and start having suicidal thoughts or engaging in vice.

“Some are raped or abused and go through a lot of things. So these mental health issues should be
anxiety, especially for all our young people, children and teenagers.

“We should pay attention to what we say or do around them and what we do to them, and we should encourage children to start talking to us or talk to counselors who can help them.

“But it should start at home, so awareness should start at home so that parents know what to look for in children to detect if something is wrong with them.”

Regarding social media, she said that the content you create should be responsible so teens can learn from it
them instead of hurting them.

Egwuatu said social media should not only be used to gain followers, but should also serve as a real tool
guide them accordingly.

She advised parents to give the young enough attention to encourage them, adding this attention
broken in the house can make them run to others to get it, which can be disastrous.

“That’s why I tell teachers and parents that they shouldn’t make children’s problems worse. You have to understand them; don’t push them to social media.

“When you don’t give them what they need, social media comes along with all sorts of content.”

Some students attending the Inspire Minds conference Students attending the Inspire Minds conference
Some students attending the Inspire Minds conference Students attending the Inspire Minds conference

Ms Rosemary Uwaleme, Founder of the foundation, said the purpose of the conference was to build awareness, reduce stigma and mitigate social disadvantages.

According to her, mental health problems in Nigeria were not taken seriously, leading to many suicide cases even among teenagers.

“Today we hear about various cases of suicide, it started somewhere.

“So we need to make people aware of what the problems are, to know when they need to talk to someone about the problems they have, so that they can avoid getting into such problems.

“By involving teens, many teens don’t like talking about their issues, so you need to make talking to them about mental health a normal language like you speak English.

“In Nigeria, when you talk about mental health, people think you’re talking about insanity.

“So the goal of this organization is to build mental health awareness so that we can deal with cases like depression, abuse and all kinds of mental health issues.

“We want to create that awareness and help young people communicate freely about their issues.”

Uwaleme said this could be achieved through awareness and counseling programs for young people.

She said the foundation also provided financial support to teenagers when needed.

She added that the foundation is also a partner of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and Universal
Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to provide them with facilities.

Representative Nsikak Ekong, an MP representing the Ikot Ekpene constituency in the House of Representatives, said the conference was impactful because it raised issues related to social media and teenagers.

“So this kind of workshop is very good because it educates the young, you catch them young; you tried to change your attitude towards life, try to change your mentality.

“You’re trying to make them believe and know that whoever you want to be is up to you, without hesitation.

“When it comes to regulations, we get there somehow. Most states have domesticated the Children’s Rights Act, which protects the child from bad experiences, trauma and child abuse, so I think we’ll be able to do that.”

Another parent, Mr. Abubakar Ndaputu, said that giving children the opportunity to be themselves is very important as it is the best way to find out what they think about certain issues.

However, he said the government has a role to play in creating an enabling environment for them to express themselves.

He added that the government could organize training and workshops for teachers on mental health so that they could in turn provide the necessary help to children if needed.

Edited by Abiemwense Moru/Hadiz Mohammed-Aliyu

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