Communication in its simple terms is the process by which people exchange information or express their thoughts and feelings. It is thus really a two way process of information exchange. This exchange can be verbal, active, impassive or non-verbal. We communicate constantly. It is part of our everyday life. From us to the receiver. We have a constant two way exchange. Now we want to look not just at this means of communication, we also are considering the role of youths in using these communications strategies to effect behavioral change. That sounds like quite a mouthful! The youth today unlike the youth of yesterday has come quite under a lot of pressures. He is bombarded at every turn with a variety of information format that he needs to be careful, on thetypes of information he can trust.
What determines the behavior of a person, his beliefs and drives his ambitions and dreams?
There are basically the environment, culture, society and to some level religion.
Value systems prevalent in the society also concern youth as they are also affected by all we have mentioned. Parents are the first socializing agents for a child until his consciousness is awakened to a level that he can process other forms of information format. So the parent is the first communication contact. The success or otherwise of that experience tend to color the negotiating and discerning ability of the child.
The African parent is as loving as any parent in any part of the world but as earlier said, the parent is a consequence of his society, his values and concepts.
There is however one factor he finds himself tongue -tied to talk about and it is the sexuality of the teenager. We were fed on a diet of innuendoes, rumors, and veiled hints! It excited our curiosity and brought us to experimental levels of our sexuality. Now sexuality education is being advocated and I ask if we are not a bit behind in coming to that recognition. I feel we got our act together a bit tardily!
Can we really talk about this? That is the first question that hits us when our child asks us questions that demands our definitions of sexuality Should we really? How come the child today is not satisfied with the same vague answers we were given when we were their age? We are left high and dry and sometimes frustrated by all the questions which seem endless. How come our culture is not coming to our aid when we are faced with these questions? Help! Children were supposed to be seen not heard.
So while we hedged and hawed and told the stories of the bees and the stork, they went to search for the information they needed from other factors of communication available to them.
Apart from the immediate family circle the youth contends with other communication factors to process information. These factors are:
The Print media, which sometimes are sources of information for youth and can have negative influences in their presentation of issues and goals. This negative influences could be in the promotion of a slim model as the ideal figure, confusing a growing child into striving to be just that type of person.
Electronic Media comprises the radio and television. Though the radio depends on the imagination of the listener to carry its more subtle messages across, television though is the more glamorous sister with an immediacy and believability that can influence the mores and concepts of a youth
The Internet today is a veritable minefield of information and carries the awesome potential of widening the horizon of the youth to heights or depths beyond his own imagination. The intelligent parent must thus educate himself on the need to be internet educated if he wants to guide the child.
Interpersonal channels like your mother, sister, pastor, friends, teachers or even youth centers carry some intimacy and engender some level of trust but may not necessarily be the best channel for accurate and precise information! Youth talk more freely amongst themselves but are also veritable containers of misinformation, myths and inaccurate information sometimes.
Since communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, it is important to appreciate its importance as a means of behavioral change. The internet has widened the horizon of our young persons but has terrified the average parent into hurriedly seeking some level of understanding of the internet. For a discerning and concerned parent the internet has been a two edged sword offering a widening of the child's horizon but also the risk of enhancing negative tendencies.
The African parent has found that he must step up his knowledge and horizon if he wishes to be relevant and useful to the growth of his child and enhance the quality of the continuity of his line. We welcomed the internet with tentative smiles and watched in anxious fascination the enchantment of our children.
It is time to talk. We can really talk about it. We must talk about it. It is no longer okay to grunt and warn of dire consequences, when they ask questions. Can we really talk about this? We must.