By Detricia Pamba
The use of smartphones has increased the number of internet users in the world. The majority have abandoned their feature phones and switched to touch screens that are big enough to enjoy a read or even a movie. While smartphones are a source of information - and, maybe, the number one form of communication today - they come with certain implications.
Globally, it is estimated that there are 4.66 billion internet users, equivalent to 59.5 percent of the global population according to a data site Statista, a German online portal.
The data show that 92.6 percent of the world population (4.32 billion) access the internet via mobile devices.
June 2021 statistics by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) show there are almost 53.2 million telecom subscribers in Tanzania, an increase of 556,158 in a month. Among them, 29.1 million are internet users while the rest use feature phones. This leaves the internet as one of the important platforms for Tanzanians, with some using it for learning, entertainment and for some, it is a way of making ends meet.
Although the mobile phone comes with a number of benefits, one can’t be very careful while using it as it also comes with unwanted invasion of privacy, scams and a lot more. Things that if one is not keen enough, could turn the happy place into a dangerous one.
The youth are very vulnerable, which is why Mulika Tanzania, together with TCRA, saw the need to address the youth about the internet and all that comes with it. Mulika Tanzania is a youth-serving organisation that strives to put young people at the centre of development and decision making processes.
On a panel around the topic of existing laws and regulations for digital usage in Tanzania, where young people met virtually to learn about digital platforms and social media usage, panelists gave quite an overview on how to use the internet.
Here is what one should consider when using the internet and social media platforms.
Know the platform well
There are many platforms on the internet, including websites, social media and blogs. Each of these has their speciality, tricks, the positives and the negatives.
In order to be safe, you need to understand the platform that you are using and its requirements so you can meet the goal of being on that platform while safe.
TCRA’s head of Consumers and Customers Affairs, Thady Ringo said during the zoom meeting that one needs to use digital platforms in a healthy way, including branding oneself.
Ringo insisted on the proper use of digital platforms for a better cause so that one can bring positivity rather than negativity.
“Start branding yourself. I encourage you to brand yourself on one platform. You need to know it well too,” insisted Ringo.
By adhering to that, one will not only make success out of the platform but will be cautious of the evils that come along with it as well.
Make your passwords on each platform strong
The mushrooming of digital platforms is a joy to witness but it also demands caution. It comes along with threats of hackers who will want to get your data and manipulate your platforms.
There are some online purchasing platforms that may require you to enter your financial credentials including your credit card information and passwords. According to a tech site, Webroot, hackers could use the same details to steal from you.
This calls for stronger passwords while online and analysing the authenticity of the sites you shop from.
Another worst thing that can happen if you don’t have a strong password is that hackers can sell your information to other parties, who will use it for illicit or illegal purposes.
It is also advisable that you should have different passwords on each platform and not have the same password all over the internet.
Open them all yourself
Even though every platform comes with a different layout and demands, at least it is clear that many require the same thing, that one should have an account. Basically an email, phone numbers and a password.
No matter how ignorant you are of a platform, never let anyone help you open an account and know your password too. Ringo advises that one needs to take this into consideration because “the possibility of them controlling your account online is high.”
If it happens you are unaware of the platform, you can always ask for help but make sure you have a new password afterwards.
Know your whys
It may be easy for a friend to influence you to join a certain digital platform. But do you really have to be in?
There are a lot of social media platforms. Naming a few, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok and many others.
Getting into social media leaves your digital prints. Your names, your emails, your passwords, your age and sometimes your contacts, locations and phone numbers.
Joining every social media will leave your details with the owners so you need to have a why, whenever you are to join a social media for your own use.
Experts suggest that you should deactivate your accounts once you pack your bags from the platform so that you don’t leave your names and images in there unnecessarily.
Apart from keeping safe while using digital platforms, it is important to understand that they come with other side effects that are posing a challenge among the youth.
At the wrong age and time, using social media is believed to cause depression and influence peer pressure.
The Child Institute of America states that, “60 percent of adolescents are looking at their phones in the last hour before sleep, and that they get on average, an hour less sleep than their peers who don’t use their phones before bed.”
This is the cause of sleep deprivation and depression in adolescents and it could also do the same for adults who heavily use their phones on social media and digital platforms at large.
Since the youth were concerned over not being given enough knowledge on the implications of the internet, Hussein Melele, the founder of Mulika Tanzania, who spearheaded the talks on this discussion said they are looking to engage more youth and students around the topic since they are the ones who are more vulnerable.
“We believe that many youth use the internet and are on social media. These are the people who are more vulnerable because they don’t know how this can affect their lives if not used well. This is why we have been conducting different conversations with the youth and students to ensure that more young people are involved in the discussions and learnings on proper ways to use the digital platforms,” says Melele.
Despite the ongoing efforts by both government and other stakeholders in ensuring that the public, especially the youth are knowledgeable on the proper use of the internet, the group still suffers implications including cases around nudity and revenge porn that are recently on the rise.
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