Feb 22, Colombo: Following the recent suicides of two young girls connected to the misuse of social media network Facebook, Sri Lankan authorities are considering ways to address the adverse impact of social media on youth.
Mass Media and Information Minister of Sri Lanka Keheliya Rambukwella has said that while social media networks like Facebook had its value as a tool for dissemination of information, a strategy is needed to address the adverse impact of social media, especially on youth.
Sri Lankan media reported the death of a19-year old female student from Elpitiya allegedly connected to a Facebook entry. Her death followed the suicide of a 15-year old female student in Kurunegala after a picture of her on Facebook led her to being reprimanded at school by the principal.
The Minister explained that there needs to be a debate on whether one should eliminate 90 percent of positive effects for the 5 percent of bad effects and on whether there needs to be some form of regulating for social media in the country.
Secretary to the Mass Media and Information Ministry Dr. Charitha Herath has called for social media awareness campaigns and workshops for the youth to promote the safe use of social media.
Dr. Herath pointing out that the social media has transformed social interaction in the country as well as around the world, the anonymity and wide reach that it provides acts as a facilitator for things like cyber bullying, harassment and the development of unhealthy cyber relationships amongst young people.
He noted that social media also has the potential to blur the lines between reality and the virtual world making it hard for the young people to separate real world interactions from those online since they are more vulnerable to deception.
"It is therefore of paramount importance that we increase awareness and invest in education of the youth on social media," Dr. Herath said.
"Social media awareness campaigns and workshops will need to be conducted promoting the importance of privacy as a safety measure, the proper usage of the internet and safe and secure web surfing, as well as using social media and the internet in a way that will benefit the youth's society rather than harm it," he suggested.
Dr. Herath further suggested increasing awareness amongst parents, teachers and adults to step in and educate the youth against subjecting themselves to damaging online environments, as well as identifying distress in children and young people who may feel like suicide is their only option.
He said enforcing a system of surveillance is practically impossible and therefore people are free to act as they wish online without consequences; distributing sensitive material, publicizing public opinion and subjecting people to defamation.
According to the Minister Rambukwella there would be massive agitation campaigns against the alleged suppression of the media if the government were to put in place a regulatory mechanism.
Therefore, the Minister emphasized that there needs to be a discussion on formulating the strategy to address issues related to social media.
The opposition United National Party has already accused that the government, fearing an up rise by the people, is planning to ban Facebook using the recent suicides of youth as an excuse and said they are totally against such a move.