News / Africa

Social Media Popular With South African Youth

Nadia Samie

MXit - a free social media platform created in South Africa in 2004 - has captured the time and attention of young people, eclipsing homework, movies and computer games. There are millions of registered user accounts. And what are most of these teenagers and young people talking about? ... Dating.

Mobile phones are just about everywhere here in South Africa.... and like in many other countries, people seem to be glued to them - especially teenagers. And it appears that topping the chatting list is MXit - the social media platform.

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, conducted a survey to better understand how young people spend their free time. MXit was the answer for 30 percent of respondents - far more popular than watching TV, talking with family and friends, reading and - not surprisingly - homework.

UNICEF South Africa Communications Officer Kate Pawelczyk says it is important to understand just how the growth of social media is impacting our children. “The main findings of the UNICEF MXit survey are that young people are spending a lot of time on MXit. They’re talking mostly to friends and family and most often about issues of love life and dating. And a lot of MXit users are interacting with strangers," she said. "We believe that we should be educating young people more and more about how to behave in the online space, to make sure that they’re always safe.”

The study indicates South African teens would rather chat on MXit than actually meet friends in person. It’s something 18-year-old MXit user Nicole Tiedemann considers a problem.

“People are not able to be social because of Mxit. And you’d find people sitting at home on their phone, rather than coming out to a movie. I think a lot of people also don’t get undivided attention. So your relationships do take strain, because you’re not focusing on that person, you’re focusing on ten people at once,” said Tiedemann.

The study found the most common topics on MXit are love lives and dating- even for people in their 20s. 25-year-old Luyanda Mtuli says he mostly uses MXit to stay in touch with his girlfriend - but it is good in other ways too. “I have my girlfriend on MXit so (laughs) I have to talk about my love life. But on the other hand, some people do use it as a form of information as in like what’s happening at school, what’s happening or at work, what you up to lately, stuff like that," she explains. "Like it keeps you informed with what’s happening in the world. So it’s not only about your love life.”

Anonymity on the user platform can be as much a part of the attraction as it a danger. Users need not reveal their real name, age, location or gender. Parents worry their children may not be interacting with whom they think they are.

The U.N.'s Kate Pawelczyk says children sometimes have a false sense of comfort on social media platforms. “If they are interacting with these strangers, lets make sure they’re not giving out any info that they shouldn’t be, that they’re not agreeing to meet in person, not giving out phone numbers, ID numbers, atm pins, that they’re not compromising their safety in any way,” she stated.

South African teachers have also raised the alarm that so-called “MXit speak” is creeping into classrooms. The shorthand often appearing on the social networks is now in school essays making it difficult to teach kids proper language skills.

Despite all these concerns, social media is here to stay.

18-year-old Nicole says she relies heavily on MXit as a low-cost way to stay in touch. “I am addicted to MXit," Tiedemann admited, "It’s mostly to save airtime. It’s got to a point where you’re just going online in order to tell someone something, in order to not call and waste airtime.”

The U.N. report issued this week is part of UNICEF's youth digital citizenship and safety project.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More