Brief Report on the Training on Child Identity Formation Programme for the PMS Diocesan Animators and Coordinators held on the 8th and 9th March 2022 at Rosa Mystica Spiritual Centre, Nairobi
Facilitator: Brother Elias Mokua, SJ (PHD)
A Child throws tantrums and a phone quietens the child. The youth are all tagged in their phones either creating content for their social media pages or they are sharing content from a social media influencer. But who is the person influencing the children of today? And what content are they posting o social media to influence the youth?
One day while interacting with the young children age 10 and 13 years, I asked them what they liked most in social media. They answered YT. I asked them what is YT? They looked at me scornfully but with surprise I their faces, wonderinfg of all the things, I could miss out in knowing what is YT!!
Then I asked what content they like in You Tube (YT) and it was obvious they go for music content. A deeper and closer look at the content of the music the children were enjoying demonstrated to me values of violence, vulgar language and dirty dance styles with sexual overtones. I was shocked, yet the children sang the lyrics with ease.
With the globalization of the world into small global villages there is rarefication of ideas and information from one corner to the other, unfortunately, there is no much control of what is posted on social media spaces, yet our children spend most of their waking hours on social media.
Many of our teenage youths are creating content and posting on the social media applications as they track the traffic to their channels. Social media is one of the popular online activities people engage in today. In 2020 3.6 billion people were using the social media worldwide. In Kenya, out of the 54.4 million people, there are 11.0 million social media users with 59.24 million mobile connections.
From statistics showing the distribution of facebook users in Kenya by age group. The findings showed that 35.7% of facebook users are aged between 18 and 24. While 34.9% fall in the age bracket of 25-34. While the people I the age bracket of 45-54 only 4.9% are facebook users while 2.2% of the facebook users are age bracket 55-64. With these statistics we realize that most of the children below 18 years are actively involved in the social media platforms whereas their parents and other caregiver are not active in the social media platforms. Thus, the new parent and teacher of our children has become social media and facebook in particular. Here, they interact virtually and can engage without physically meeting. This virtual interaction is quite addictive and alluring.
Br. Dr. Elias Mokua SJ, a researcher and lecturer, in the department of Communications, at the University of Nairobi did an empirical study on religious persons’ perceptions towards parenting and mentorship of the young people in Kenya. His results are quite intriguing and thought provoking.
Out of a sample size of 116 respondents, 95.7% agreed that parental care had declined in the last ten years while 4.3% were neutral. So the next question is, who is mentoring the children if parental care has declined? The study showed that 80.2% of the respondents agree that children today are using media for mentorship while 13.6% disagree with only 6.0% remaining neutral.
On another level, the same study showed that 94% of the respondents agreed that schools today are struggling to form children in attitudes and character development. This is because, on a general level, families, which traditionally were the gateway to social norms and moral values for children have become the weakest link of formation and mentorship in Christian values and spirituality.
Therefore, who is imparting values and morals to our children? The answer is social media and the content creators of social media articles. But is the Church and the Gospel Values expressed in the social media. The answer a strong negation. Therefore, because the children of today have no good foundations in moral upbringing from the family set up and schools are struggling to form them in character and attitudes, then it follows that, our children are growing up without the spiritual formation.
How much time do the children have to engage with the spiritual formators in Church or outside the Church circle? It was realized that the pastoral agents of faith have a maximum of two hours in a week to engage with the youth and teach them. This is quite insufficient time to engage and impart spiritual formation. Probably, that is why they are rebellious and obstinate in character. Because, the value of God is minimal in them hence they do not recognize the dignity of others as equally important to them as themselves.
This is a critical message for the church because, the young people are becoming disillusioned and disaffiliated from the Church, and being lured into life of individualism, materialism, hedonism and consumerism. Thus, the number of youth leaving the Church in Kenya is quite alarming that if we do not step up our efforts, and put mitigation measures, we shall have Churches with no youth.
Where is the problem?
The caregivers of the young people have no much time to waste with the young people. They are too busy with life at the expense of the life of the young person whose self-image emanates from this core group in their life. Absence of a good caregiver to impress upon them the image of concern and care leaves the young people bereft and empty out to search for solace in the social media and other platforms that give them a sense of relief and belonging albeit temporal.
Child identity formation programme aims at standing at this gap in the life of the youth and bridging it by imparting skills and knowledge to parents and other caregivers of children and youth to understand the youth and the stage of development they are going through.
More so, this programme is to equip the care givers with the understanding of how to handle the youth when faced with the crisis of growing up. The programme aims at bridging the generational gap and bringing the church closer to the youth within the arena where they are present and available. So that we can impress upon them the gospel values.
It Is a high time the Church programmes and modes of teaching the youth took a digital angle that will entice the young people to question and explore more on the teaching of Jesus and its relevance in their life today.
Failure to tap into this resource we are doomed to become irrelevant to the world of the young people. Failure to upgrade our skills of imparting spiritual knowledge, we are doomed to remain with empty classroom. The youth have shifted, the world has moved, and we need to upgrade our methodology and expressions to suit the language and attitudes of these young people.
Loyola Centre for Media and Communication having done a lot of Empirical studies on this gap in the Church have developed tools that can help the Church speak to and with the youth at their level. What is needed is for the caregivers to learn the skills of using the technology and spaces available to create content that will influence our youth positively. This begins with good forms of parenting that calls for the presence of the parent, to listen to all the children say. Appreciate them when they do well and correct where necessary allowing them to make mistakes and help them reconcile when a mistake has been done. The philosophy here is that help the children to dream and inspire them to achieve their dreams.
Fr. Bonaventure Luchidio, PMS National Director, Kenya