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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora