So­cial me­dia app leads to prob­lems

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton - BY AARON BESWICK THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

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.

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