Social media app leads to problems
An app built as a class project by an undergraduate student in California has become a vehicle for concern among young women in a First Nation community.
It’s a modern irony. “They can’t hide from (Snapchat),” said Kalo Nicholas, 22, of Eskasoni.
Snapchat is a social media app that allows people to send pictures that are automatically deleted after a set period of time.
“You don’t know what ‘ghosting’ is,” Bernadette Bernard, 23, smiles and shakes her head incredulously when asked to explain the term to a 35-year-old reporter.
As it turns out, Snapchat can be set to ghost mode, a setting that prevents your peers from seeing exactly where you are at any given time.
But her need to explain serves as an example of how different generations can live in completely different worlds.
It’s something Linda Liebenberg has been hearing plenty about.
The adjunct professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax has been working with 15 Eskasoni youth, including Bernard and Nicholas, to study relationships, community and violence as they relate to sexuality and sexual violence.
This week, she and some of those youth unveiled the
product of their work: Break the Silence, Be the Change.
They had pastries, colourful magnets and summaries of their report laid out on a picnic table in the Healing Garden behind the Eskasoni Mental Health Services Building. But despite being a product of much work, no youth not involved in the study showed up.
“We invited them,” said Liebenberg.
Like the youth, who live in a broader interconnected world through their smartphones,
the study fits into a bigger discussion than what’s going on in Eskasoni.
“Both Canada and South Africa house significant differences between legal frameworks and lived realities for marginalized populations of young women,” declares the study.
“Both countries also have similar histories in relation to racialized colonization and segregation and continue to come under scrutiny by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the United
Nations for their failure to create safe and secure environments for girls and young women.”
The study exists in the academic discussion, typically held in universities and government offices far away from Eskasoni, about why Indigenous women in Canada are eight times more likely to be murdered by a partner than the regular population and why so many Aboriginals have been subjected to sexual abuse.
And more importantly, what can be done to break the cycle.
While terms like ghost mode and racialized colonization may need explaining to many, the study’s conclusions are much easier to grasp.
Though technology may have changed the world in which the new generation lives, it hasn’t changed what they need.
“If we build protective relationships around young people who are confronted by challenges in their own lives, we can provide them with a powerful resource,” said Liebenberg.
The youth told her that what they need from teachers, counsellors, police and parents is understanding — that a bad test score isn’t the end of the world or that maybe they acted out because they are struggling with greater problems in their lives.
“The kids that are acting out sometimes don’t have healthy, loving relationships in their lives,” said Liebenberg.
“Young people are telling us that we’re all interconnected in this community but the supports (i.e. teachers, counsellors, parents, police) are operating as separate units.”
Bernadette Bernard, Kalo Nicholas and Richard Bernard assisted in the study Break the Silence: Be the Change.