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Social Media as a development tool for youth: Why Africa is lacking behind? Part III


By: Theko Tlebere


This week I will solely focus on the definitions of the three key terms behind our paper. The key terms that I intend to extrapolate are as follows: Youth development, social media, and development tools.

Youth development in its broadest sense refers to the stages that all children go through to acquire the attitudes, competencies, values, and social skills they need to become successful adults. The “youth development” discussed here is an extension of that asset/resiliency process. In this context, youth development is a discipline in the field of youth work, founded on the belief that young people are best able to move through their developmental stages when they are supported across all sectors of the community by individuals, family, schools, youth agencies, faith organizations, community governance, business, and more. The youth development model focuses on activities that nurture developmental assets rather than on reducing particular risks or preventing specific problems. Its ultimate goal is to help youth become successful adults not just problem free, but fully prepared to be responsible, contributing, and healthy adults.

Youth development according to Pittman et al (2000) has also gained prominence as a movement serving as a unifying theme for a wide range of discussions and actions aimed at shaping policy as well as practice .Development is a process, not a goal. People continue to develop throughout their lifetimes. Therefore, promoting youth development is an enduring, overarching purpose, not a goal that is ever finally achieved. According to   John Dewy (1938) captured this quality by noting that the purpose of development is to enable a person to continue to develop. Viewing development in this way complicates the identification of goals. Rather than setting out concise measurable behaviors, developmental goals identify demands for growth. Progress, opposed to attainment, is the key .

It was actually very difficult to find a definition of social media that is Africa centric, well there are various reasons for that, which we will not discuss today. What is equally important is to comprehend to the fact that social media refers to websites and applications that are designed to allow people to share content quickly, efficiently, and in real-time. Many people define social media as apps on their smartphone or tablet, but the truth is, this communication tool started with computers. This misconception stems from the fact that most social media users access their tools via applications . There is one element that is most lacking in the previous definitions, the involvement of youth in the buildup and usage of social media. There is this underlying definition that I like which says that social media is primarily Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings . You see this generalization of the definition talking about human beings says a lot about how we Africans apprehend certain aspects of development, more specially when looking at social media.

Now it should be remembered that the core values of this paper is simply to unfold the linkages of lack of documentation in Africa about social media impact as a tool for youth development. Now another definition that should be highlighted with caution is that by Bottle PR(2009) when saying social media is termed as  software tools that allow groups to generate content and engage in peer-to-peer conversations and exchange of content (examples are YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Myspace etc.) .” Even though I like this definition so much, but it’s not explicit about the usage of YouTube and Facebook, while it’s undoubtedly certain that most range of people that use such tools are youth.

Axel Schultze closes the conceptualization of this concept social media in a matter fueled way, he says “Social Media is the collection of tools and online spaces available to help individuals and businesses to accelerate their information and communication needs.

The realization for youth development tools in Africa needs to be looked at from a perspective where there is recognition of development initiatives for youth and by the youth. They further need to be formulated and managed using people driven and performance based management tools. This is why for the conceptualization of these concepts I had to separate development and tools in order to make sure that the human element that we are looking for is there. It is therefore my strong believe that being able to understand what development is on its stand-alone will make it even more easier in finding synergy   in definition of development tools.

Development is a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components.  The purpose of development is a rise in the level and quality of life of the population, and the creation or expansion of local regional income and employment opportunities, without damaging the resources of the environment.  Development is visible and useful, not necessarily immediately, and includes an aspect of quality change and the creation of conditions for a continuation of that change.

Now, having said that, let’s look at a definition of what a  tool is; then we shall be able to give a contextualized bearing of development tools as envisaged by the writing of this paper. A simple dictionary meaning says a tool is something that helps to get or achieve something, it says words can be regarded as tools for communication; a book’s cover can also be a great marketing tool. The Internet has become an important research tool. A further common astrology could be that one has the tools (natural skills) to be a great pitcher.

Therefore it is prudent to conclude that development tools are essential in attaining youth development hence  tools for development can be used  in several ways: they can be used to turn young people into  better-informed citizens by using local and international communication channels, becoming better able to identify, contract and manage consultancy support; To improve your skills and techniques when designing, conducting or facilitating development initiatives, especially when working in a team-based and or multi-disciplinary environment; Tools assist in  sharing the fruits of our own experience with  colleagues. The future is Now!

….to be continued

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