CIRCLE- “Online Presence- Our Youth & Children- ‘Lambs to the slaughter?’”

By Majed Iqbal- The following circle was delivered in a Masjid in Bolton. I was invited to speak about the issues surrounding problems with youth going online. 

Yesterday, I came across the Metro newspaper which had ran its frontpage story with the following headline “The girl who could only live online”. It may seem like a story suggesting that too much time was spent online. In reality, it focused on this young girls suicide whilst providing graphic details of how she posed for pictures whilst self-harming herself, posting them online; a reaction to the bullying she was victim of. A few days after she was confronted by her mother, she committed suicide by running in front of a train.

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Stories like these have hit the headlines many a time. Last year, the social networking site, Ask.fm, a popular platform for youth, was investigated after a 14 year old was bullied online, leading her to hang herself in her bedroom.

Joanne Smith, who found her younger sister Hannah hanged at home in Leicestershire, described how she had also been bullied on Ask.fm. Joanne, 16, said she had been “strong enough” to stop using the site, while her 14-year-old sister had not.

“You get friends ask you questions on there and it’s harder to come off than you actually think because you get addicted to it. It’s hard to explain.”

Cyber bullying is affecting many, as youth today are spending increasingly longer time online on such social networking sites. The problems are not solely restricted to Ask.fm, but popular sites like Facebook and Twitter too.

 

WHAT IT IS

Cyber bullying as a phenomenon covers an array of actions and behaviours which children even at Primary School level are being affected by.

Cyber bullying can take many forms:

  • Sending mean messages or threats to a person’s email account or cell phone
  • Spreading rumors online or through texts
  • Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages
  • Stealing a person’s account information to break into their account and send damaging messages
  • Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person
  • Taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the Internet
  • Sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person 

 

The rate of the Problem

The Harford County Examiner reported concerning cyber bullying statistics which would concern any parent, guardian or brother or sister looking after their siblings.

  • Around half of teens have been the victims of cyber bullying
  • Only 1 in 10 teens tells a parent if they have been a cyber bully victim
  • Fewer than 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement
  • 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras
  • About 1 in 5 teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to others

The reports findings highlighted that girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be involved in cyber bullying

 

Tackling the problem

In a world where staying online equates to how popular your social status is, it has been very difficult for parents to get their heads around such new technologies and maintain a suitable and healthy balance.

Fundamentally, this is an ideological issue. Our lifestyles have heavily been affected by a secular view of life where actions are measured by the scale of benefit and harm and restricted to outcomes related to this life. Children raised in this society are groomed with such ideals and Muslim children are not exempt from these societal pressures.

So how can Muslim parents tackle this issue?

 

Seeking attention online

Children require attention. They crave for it. Going into the teens brings along a whole range of changes, physical and mental and those dreaded hormones. Parents should spend time with their children with meaningful activities, keep them occupied with tasks, help around the home and share their interests with each other. Time online can be managed by defining time limits. In fact some tasks online can be fruitful like running a Dawah group on Facebook for local activities. Get your children involved. Give them that attention in real terms rather than letting them to succumb to the virtual grasp.

 

Circle of friends/atmosphere

Children connect with others base on interests. Unfortunately, for some status counts for more. Youth today measure you by how many friends you have on Facebook & Twitter. Fake gangs roam in schools and in communities demanding respect. Those joining them seem to think they’re raising their social standing by linking u with them.

Parents must take active steps to know who their children are hanging around with. It is good for parents to allow friends of children to visit their homes. This way they can sense if the company of friends is productive or not for their children and readily be there at their disposal to offer any advice and guidance. Many problems can be resolved in a very natural way.

 

Explaining the online world

Children are prone to influences and the online world can often get them sucked into issues. We need to teach them the distinction between reality and the virtual world and eliminate the blurred lines which they often fall victim to. Allah (Swt) beautifully reminds us in the Quran about this.

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 “But those who disbelieved – their deeds are like a mirage in a lowland which a thirsty one thinks is water until, when he comes to it, he finds it is nothing but finds Allah before Him, and He will pay him in full his due; and Allah is swift in account”

  

Raising Children

Living in the West there, where the lifestyle sometimes clashes with the values tha Islam aspires for us, it oculd become quite challenging for parents. We therefore need to pay due attention these pressing issues and offer our children the unique packaged lifestyle that Islam details for us.

The Prophet (SAW) said, “The best gift to children from parents is their correct training” (Tirmizi).

 

Be balanced

Provide the necessary attention to all your children. Talk to them. Ask them about their lives and participate in activities with them.

  • Treat your children with love and mercy
  • Helping children to choose their role models
  • Teaching children Islamic morals and characters

This way they feel warmth, love, affection and valued. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Act equally between your children; Act equally between your sons”.  (Dawud, Narrated An-Nu’man ibn Bashir)

 

Suicide

People who lose hope in this life commit suicide. Our children should be taught that life is precious and we need to value it and work to change a situation if we are displeased with it. Suicide should never be an option and is completely forbidden in Islam to do this.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “None of you should wish for death because of a calamity befalling him; but if he has to wish for death, he should say: “O Allah! Keep me alive as long as life is better for me, and let me die if death is better for me”. (Bukhari)

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever; and whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever.”
 (Bukhari)

 

Leave strong children behind

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“Your wealth and your children are only a trial, whereas Allah! With Him is a great reward (Paradise)” (Surah At-Taghabun 64:15)

 Allah (swt)reminds us how our children will be tests for us. We can succeed by following the commands to establish good, productive Islamic households where Iman is nurtured, Love for Allah and his Holy Prophet is talked about and morals are kept in line with the Shariah.

Anas (Radhi Allahu anhu) narrates that the Holy Prophet (SAW) said: “Whoever maintains two girls until they attain maturity, he and l will arrive on the Day of Judgement like this; he joined his two fingers.” (Muslim)

We also want to leave behind pious children so that they may make dua for us when we pass away. Only by fulfilling our roles in our positions of responsibility can we ensure this. Our tarbiyyah will save them in this life and us in the next!

The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: “Upon death, man’s deeds will stop except for three deeds, namely: a continuous charitable fund, endowment or goodwill; knowledge left for people to benefit from; and a pious righteous and God-fearing child who continuously prays to Allah, for the souls of his parents” (Muslim).

May Allah make it easy for our children and this Ummah. Ameen

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