By Kartik Bajoria
A friend’s daughter started an NGO a few months back. She would gather leftover food from restaurants and cafes and distribute it to people who needed it across the city. Her endeavour was modest at first, using her parent’s car to pick up and distribute this food, sometimes falling woefully short of space, at other times, not having access to the car because it was required by either parent. Over time, I noticed that she had come into some funding, had received a generous donation of a dedicated bus, and her operations as a result, had expanded, and was now catering to thousands in need of food and nutrition!
When I asked her how this all happened, her answer was, social media! Now, there are naysayers who would be quick to point out platforms such as TikTok and dismiss social media as a harmful, detrimental evil of our times, especially for children. To them, I would like to say that like almost anything in life, social media too has its advantages and disadvantages. The more pertinent point perhaps is how it is used, for good, or for wasteful pursuits.
Like in the example I shared above, if social media is used responsibly by children to further their positive pursuits, spread good messages and intentions, it can prove to be an invaluable tool. It can be anything, a modest little project that a child starts in his or her home or neighbourhood such as tree plantation, or a larger endeavour such as caring for stray animals across a city. Information, pictures, messaging relating to these kinds of socially charged and sensitive projects on social media can be hugely inspirational and motivational, and compel other people to join the cause.
Once a child becomes synonymous with a certain social pursuit, there is an entire like-minded corpus of people that start following, liking, and joining that individual and that cause. Through social media, great community building can be instigated and quickly, one’s social media footprint can become a force-multiplier and spur thousands and millions of citizens into affirmative action. When people identify with a cause, they come together, become one, and become a potent force for change.
Of course, social media can also become a great showcase for talent. Especially for children who usually don’t have access to funds to promote themselves and their art/work, social media can be a very effective communication platform. A young photographer for instance, can share and post pictures that he or she has been clicking, and through that, not only build a robust online portfolio that can be shared with people, colleges, institutions and organisations but also attract interest from other like-minded artists who might want to collaborate. It is a great brand-building opportunity waiting to be tapped.
As a natural corollary to ‘portfolio building’, if a child’s work/art is liked and appreciated, and gains a certain critical mass of following and patronage, the social media tool can also turn into an income generator in future, either through e-commerce where a young artist or photographer can sell their work, or through collaborative promotions with complementary brands/people/institutions who will want to tie-up and do work together. Be it on a small scale to generate pocket money, or on a larger scale with the potential of becoming one’s livelihood, the monetary gains that can be developed on social media are undeniable.
Finally, in times of crisis and emergency, such as a natural disaster, when timely communication and information are of the essence, if used correctly and responsibly, social media can prove invaluable. This can work again at a macro level to get information out in the time of mass-crisis, or even at a micro level, where, from a parents’ perspective, to get a message from one’s child saying he or she is safe in a time of distress through social media, can be extremely comforting.
Of course, as parents, we have to lead by example and inculcate a sense of morality and responsibility in our children so that they first use social media in a mature manner, and second, don’t fall prey to the many unhealthy/harmful lures of some social media platforms. As long as we can do that, I would think that social media can definitely be a boon for kids.
(Writer, educator and moderator, Kartik Bajoria holds workshops on creative writing and personality development at various schools. Views are personal.)