Nyangweso Laurie Osebe – Moi Girls High School, Eldoret

Dear Mr. President,

My life as a digital learner dominantly resolves around the use microcomputers, that is; desktop PCs, smart devices such as smart phones and tablets, laptops and calculators, within and without school.

My access to the vast virtual workspace I like to call “The Digital World” is majorly confined to the few devices mentioned above- what my mother’s salary and the fixed school budget can afford to purchase, sustain and periodically upgrade however, this does not limit my exposure and experience. I can therefore be counted a reliable source.

Once I overcome the slight difficulty of learning how to operate these devices, the digital learning the experience became thoroughly refreshing. Not only does it break the monotony of classroom study but also boosts my chances at getting good grades. How? Well, the visual stimulation keeps my mind engaged for longer periods of the. Furthermore, being a visual learner, it provides more images for me to associate to memory.

The flexible, versatile nature of digital learning allows me to push past the traditionally set constraints of the rigid curriculum. In other words, I am no longer limited to text-book content. Automation of processes such as; identification and correction of grammatical errors, arithmetic calculations and logical comparisons, the simultaneous execution of tasks, the ability to retrieve data from one program and use it on another, all these and so many more features serve as catalysts. My working speed is greatly enhanced thus I am able to achieve beyond-average amounts of work within the short span of a lesson. It really does make work easier.

Beyond the physical and visual interface shared between the few devices I happen to come into contact with and I, there is a progressively growing invisible bond that sentimentally and mentally wires me to the devices themselves. This simply means that I increasingly become machine dependent even for tasks my young mind can do on its own with ease. I grow so accustomed to using machines to satisfy even the pettiest whims that it becomes difficult to detach myself from them. Detachment would leave me upset, feeling vulnerable and somewhat hopeless.

This intangible bond is forged from habit; the repetitive use of a device at fairly high frequencies. I believe this bond not dangerous, after all we are moving forward a technologically advanced future. This bond might actually be necessary. Its effects can only be positive if it is not exceedingly strong and can co-exist in perfect synchrony with other aspects of a person’s life. A state of equilibrium must always be maintained .This is a very crucial point and to a large extent forms the basis of my entire discussion.

The human construct of body, mind and soul is a balance to maintain. Anything unhealthy disruptions to this divine order, if not immediately curbed or completely gotten rid of, can lead one’s life to spiral uncontrollably downhill.

This bond I speak of. It is a force capable of tipping the scales of harmony and creating total ruin. The thought scares me because it is a concern so often overlooked. Given time and space to grow strong. The damage could be insurmountable or worse, irreversible.

The human-machine tie is further strengthened by the internet. The advent of the internet age was no glamorous event. However, as it gained momentum its popularity grew to a global scale of appreciation. There was much celebration as different people’s explored new avenues of doing business by topping into an online market. Effective means of communication developed and both national and international cohesion was encouraged. Lives were literally changing with every new internet trend that came up.

One of man’s glorious inventions.

The internet ceaselessly grows.

Thriving on information to expand.

A beast of sorts.

I am certain the initial creators of the internet had no malicious intent in mind. They did not have a grand scheme of polluting billions of minds every day. Theirs was a desire for development. It is therefore safe to say they would not be proud of how we abuse the internet. Further along the line people found a way to corrupt something made so perfectly good.

I do acknowledge the positive effect the internet has on Kenyan students/ Instant access to information is very advantageous. However, the very same internet is highly instrumental in the moral and mental decay of Kenyan youth. As young people, the internet as a drastic effect on our minds and consequently, a drastic effect on our bodies and souls. The three are complementary and will always share on unbreakable symbiotic relationship.

Unguided, Unregulated and unmonitored use if the internet is very toxic for young people. We are obviously not mature enough to sift through the voluminous content and distinguish right from wrong. Whatever comes our way, we take it in like a sponge. A child’s ignorance is meant to be blissful. The state of not knowing frees it from the burden of worry. It is a gentle, docile being only if nature is allowed to take its course untrammeled. The constant feed of information, we as Kenyan children get from the internet makes us too smarty for our own good. We no longer all ourselves to be led.  We become walking encyclopedias. Robbed of our childhood by a radial mental growth spurt.

In all honesty using machines for a very long time is very mind-numbing and time-consuming. The internet simply heightens this. Spending hours seated glaring at a screen in trance-like state can leave one a bit discontented and confused. If allowed to develop it can lead to lapses f memory and neglect of personal hygiene. `Too lazy to go take a shower because I am on the net’. It can also change dietary habits as one develops a preference for quick-fix meals or junk food. Why? Well, the less time you spend in the kitchen, the more time you have to browse.

I am more than willing to use myself as an example. The more time I spend online, the less I play outside. I should be outdoors! Jumping over fences, climbing trees, chasing chicken… not seated all day. It puts strain on my back, eyes arms and neck. At this rate, I tend to think my spine will end up bent out of shape and I will end up slouching like an old lady before I hit age 50.

To add on that, it would take a lot of effort to comprehend what I read on the internet. At times I would end up utterly discouraged. In retrospect, most of that information did little to help. It merely slowed me down and lowers my self-esteem

On the moral aspect of it all, Depending on the nature of content I learn. There is a resultant consequence. For every action there is a reaction. Whatever I learn, especially at this time when my mind is still so very malleable, will have an obvious or not-so obvious effect. This is why there is an urgent need to filter as best as possible what I am exposed to before my mind `hardens’

It is believed that whatever manifests itself in the physical has been developing and taking root in the spiritual slowing merging with one’s being. So when an obviously bright student is dimmed: lagging behind academically, falling into the habit of drug abuse, ` ratchet’ dressing, constant rebellion and using crude language, it should not simply be explained off as adolescent mood swings. It is advisable to dig deeper. Internet search histories are a very strategic vantage point. (Take a hint)

Young people with inflated egos will definitely belittle their own teachers and take their own. Loving parents for granted. I really do feel for Kenyan parents. We are very stubborn children who can vex then to a point where they feel emotional drained. But their patience can only go so far. To further scrape the sore, we as underage citizens have no financial independence, therefor, the money we frivolously spend on the internet is not ours, but our parents’. Our parents so happen to be the Kenyan working class and when their hard earned money is wasted, they become frustrated. Frustration leads to reduced productivity of the Kenyan human resource. The grand result is a bruised economy. A great ship sunken by a small leak.

To add on that, frustration leads to impatience. Impatience leads to misunderstandings thus a rift is created in the family. The most basic unit of society is shaken. When the family is tom apart, the whole nation gradually moving toward a similar fate. A very bleak future of intolerance, suspicion and hate.

Forgive me Mr. President if I come off as a crazed alarmist but, I do believe that this raging over-use of the internet could lead to insanity. Yes the possibility is remote but it is still a possibility. You will not find it hard to believe once you consider the number if young Kenyan minds already marred and left in disarray. Very few minds are left uninflated by the slow poison of unhealthy internet use. Purity is almost non-existent. The mid is progressively crippled by filth.

Can you picture it? A whole generation of weakened minds. A dysfunctional society of rash and careless decision-makers. In simple terms, our minds ae already corrupt before we are 18 years old. Picture us when we are 30 Years old, it is disturbing thought. I hope you can now see that insanity is a possible eventuality. So many brilliant minds dulled and gone to waste. That, Mr. President, weighs heavily on my chest. On a lighter note, I would like to let you in on a little secret. The young people of Kenya are conscious lot. We are very much aware the things we do online are wrong. If we did not know, we would not hide. Would we?

We believe that all our dealings on the internet are well hidden from everyone except one whole company of people. The people who work for our service provider (commonly Safaricom). The only assurance we have is that they are too far to point an accusing finger! But even this is not assurance enough. Our number one phobia still remains, the dreaded safaricom main-frame computer (rumored to fill up whole rooms) and their ridiculously large memories that keep a very incriminating record of the dirty work our sim-cards have been used for since the day they were activated. Every single site visited, every single message or graphical file sent or received along a communication line, every phone call, every upload, every download… lords have mercy! This belief fuels our desire to become elite hackers, so that we can somehow access the log safaricom keeps and cleat nasty parts of it delete it altogether. The fire of ambition still burns!

Since there are so many young people wondering aimlessly on the internet, it has become a major platform of manipulation especially of the sexual kind. It is replete with sexual offenders who solicit openly. Reckless sex with multiple partners is now a widely accepted norm.

Most adults have a bird’s eye view of pornography and the youth. I would like to give a new perspective; the teenage eye. What draws many of us to porn is curiosity. We would like to know what all the fuss is about. The first erotic picture, video or story hits one’s senses like freight train. Then as one eases into it, it becomes exhilarating and enthralling. Then once the building urge is satisfied either by masturbation or actual sex, the view initially clouded by wants clears up. Slowly one’s head comes tumbling back down to earth from cloud nine. Reality hits like a brick on the head. One is left surprised and horrified by their own actions.

It is a very demeaning habit young people find hard to break. It lowers ones sense of self-worth as one is dogged by unforgiving conscience. To make matters worse, for those who do not relieve their sexual tension, it remains pent up in them. All these thoughts in the minds of young people, barely 18 years old. It is so very wrong.

Mr. President, I have a few ideas that might cause upheaval but I would like to point out that even the bible encourages firmness when dealing with young ones. It will not kill us. It might actually save us.

One. Age restrictions on social media. No one below age 21 should have access to social media and all actively running accounts should be immediately deactivated until one is of age. Verification can be done by ID number.

The mobile messenger known as `2go’ should be banned in Kenya because it has portals through which homosexuality is greatly encouraged.

Parents should be able to enforce parental settings on their children’s handsets. As a matter of fact, it should be mandatory. These settings should prevent a child from viewing child unfriendly content.

I would very much like these rules to permeate into every family such that the times children are allowed to use devices are time-tabled. Hopefully, no child will be allowed to access the internet or better yet, no child will be allowed to have a phone past 9:00 pm. It will encourage us to sleep early or engage our minds in some other way.

The solution I have in mind are all very sketchy, but they ideally focus on thoroughly probing and monitoring young people and as they use various devices. Sure it will make us uncomfortable when adults keep poking their noses in our business, but the overall result will be positive.

Digital learning has proven itself useful and a credible force for propelling Kenya toward vision 2030. Many are now losing the ‘third world country mentality’ and are willing to embrace modern technology. It is undoubtedly rewarding. However, I strongly maintain that for digital learning and digitization as a whole to be truly fruitful, then its disadvantage (which area national hazard) have to be addressed.

Yours faithfully,