Challenges of Modern Day Parenting

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Worried children in Nigeria

As Nigerian children celebrate their day this week in conformity with the United Nations mandate, it appears that the 21 century parents have more work to do in their upbringing owing to the availability of various gadgets and technological devices which attract and lure them into crimes and other vices

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jun. 2, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

NOVEMBER 16, 2013 was a day Papa Remedy is not likely to forget in a hurry. On that fateful day, Papa Remedy entered his two-bedroom apartment and found his 17-year-old son reclining on a seat in the sitting room with his mobile phone and an earpiece stuck his ear as if listening to music. But the unusual manner displayed by the son aroused his suspicion that he was forced to collect the phone from the young boy. To his amazement, he found that his son was watching pornography. Shocked with disbelief, Papa Remedy raised an alarm which attracted his neighbours at Arandun Estate, Iba, Ojo, Lagos State. They were surprised when they got to know what the boy did because they had regarded Papa Remedy as a very disciplined and upright person who would be strict in the upbringing of his children.

To his chagrin, Papa Remedy also discovered that there were more than 20 video movies in the phone and that all were pornography. The father of six told Realnews that his son was always lonely whenever he was using the earpiece with the phone. He, however, blamed his wife for allowing the children, who were still in secondary schools, to have access to internet phones. “This is not the first time he is watching this thing. For a long time, I had observed that whenever he came back from school, he would like to be alone with his phone and earpiece. But I never thought that this was what he was always watching. I warned my wife not to allow these boys to have internet phones but she insisted that it would be useful for them in their academics. See where the whole thing has landed us now. They have succeeded in embarrassing me in the neighbourhood and damage the good name I worked tirelessly to make for myself. All I know is that from today onwards, none of them will ever use a phone that has access to internet,” he said.

Nigerian children
Nigerian children

Papa Remedy’s case is a bit different from others. On Omowami Street, Ajuwon, Lagos, is a 26-year-old lady with five children. Each of the children has a father. The eldest among them is 10 years old, while the youngest is about a year and five months. The young lady has vowed not to marry any of the fathers of her children, saying that her parents must train the children since they refused to send her to school. To make the matter worse, none of the children is going to school.

According to her neighbours, the presence of this young lady and her children is a big threat as they terrorise the neighbourhood at will. The neighbours also see her as a bad influence on the teenagers in the area. One of the neighbours who didn’t want his name in print, told Realnews that the young lady was always fighting her parents and staying out late at night in company of notorious guys in the area. “Even the parents are tired of her. She comes in anytime she wants and will even jump the fence whenever the gate is locked. It is only God that will save us from this prostitute because her presence is a big security challenge to us,” he said.

Perhaps, a little bit different is the story of a prostitute who also blamed her situation on the way she was raised. That is for girls. Through lack of parental cares and carelessness, a number of children who have turned out to be kidnappers, area boys, rapists, militants, armed robbers and many other notorious criminals imaginable. For instance, on Thursday, February 6, it was reported that four men, Chinye, Sule, Wale and Lawal Kamoru, were accused of gang-raping a 14-year-old-girl who was returning from a church vigil early in the morning. The incident happened on Oluwanishola Street, Ilaje Bariga, Lagos. The victim and her sister, who live in Ifako, Gbagada area of Lagos, had attended a vigil with their mother in Ososa Avenue, Bariga. After the vigil, their mother was said to have asked them to wait for her at the home of a family friend on Jide Street, Bariga. On their way to the friend’s house, the sisters were reportedly cornered by the four men who threatened them with knives, sticks and bottles.

The quartet was said to have been temporarily distracted from their evil intention when they noticed a group of people approaching. They allegedly freed the girls but later took another direction to catch up with them. The hoodlums reportedly abducted the girls and seized their bag containing a Bible, a head tie, a handset and N10,000 cash. Moreover, they allegedly seized the younger of the victims and took the 14-year-old to a corner where they took turns to rape her. She was said to have received serious injuries as a result of the raping and was rushed to a general hospital in the area for treatment.

In a similar incident, a primary three pupil of Christian Victory Nursery/Primary School, Ikot Ekang, in Etinan Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, was allegedly raped to death by two unknown men in February this year. Realnews gathered that the incident occurred when Enobong Wilson, the maternal grandfather of the girl, sent her to a nearby store to buy an item for him. The little girl was said to have moved to Wilson’s house when her father, Udo Jimmy, died late last year.

2013 childen's day celebration in Enugu
2013 childen’s day celebration in Enugu

Ufok Tommy, head teacher of the school, said when the girl did not return from the errand her maternal grandfather sent her, the man became curious about her whereabouts. After a long fruitless search for her that night, they thought the girl had gone to her father’s compound to see her other relations. “Nobody had any idea about her whereabouts. We expected her at school, but when all the other children resumed, we noticed she was missing. But one of our teachers, Mrs. Lucy Okon, heard many women shouting as they gathered. So, she went to the scene only to see the girl’s corpse lying at the back of a building, which has been raised above foundation level. She was found naked, with blood all over her private part and foam in the mouth. And besides where she lay, two pairs of male sandals were picked up. Nobody can tell who killed her. She joined us this term immediately she began to live with her grandfather,” he said.

While the suspected rapists of the young girl were still at large, nemesis caught up with one Akeem Ibrahim, a 29-year-old man who was accused of raping a two-year-old girl. Ibrahim appeared before an Osogbo Magistrate’s Court, in Osun State, on Friday, February 7 and was remanded in prison custody. The list of similar crimes is endless. But what is responsible for these growing criminal tendencies among the youths?

As in the case of Papa Remedy’s son, the internet has exposed a great number of Nigerian youths to cybercrimes. Through the internet and home videos, the youths have learnt how to commit various crimes. For instance, it is through the internet and home videos, and sometimes, through television, that the youths learn a lot about pornography, how to  use guns to rob, how to make and plant bombs, rape, defraud, hack into peoples’ accounts and mails as well as commit all manners of crimes. A recent study by the International Data Corporation, IDC, and the National University of Singapore showed that Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya are in the upper ranks of countries with the highest rate of internet crime. Ironically, the three countries produce less than two percent of global gross domestic product, GDP, but account for 10 percent of global cybercrime.

A Nigerian journalist, who does not want his name in print, recently got a mail on his Facebook account which read: “We congratulate you over your success in the just concluded and official publication of results of the Facebook online draw held today, 4th of April 2014. We are here to notify you that your profile on Facebook was selected among the 50 lucky winners of Facebook active member monthly draw award.” The scammers, also known as yahoo-yahoo boys, informed him that his profile had won him $10,000 for being an active member of Facebook and that he could claim the amount at any bank using Western Union. “You are advised to contact the Director of Africa/Asia Facebook team, Mr King Thomas Fall, through his email address [email protected] with your information for verification of your account.”

Luckily, the journalist detected the scam and did not fall for it. But others have been conned. One scammer, who identified himself as Moses, a 300-level student of English at the University of Benin explained how the trick works. “The latest trend is fraudulent loan services,” he said. “Before now, I concentrated mostly on dating scam. But the loan scam is more lucrative and more fool-proof. What we do, I and a network of friends, is to create websites offering loan services. We send emails to a list of about 800,000 persons. Sometimes, we get less than 100 responses. At a point, we ask them to pay $100. We continue to scoope (con) them, extorting little dollars from them. Once the Maga (victim) pays, somebody in the U.S., South Africa or India – our pick-up point – collects and sends the money to us through Western Union. We make up to N4 million a month whenever the business is not moving well.”

Suswam
Suswam

Another scammer, who claimed to have repented, said: “The whole thing about yahoo-yahoo is to present false information to victims who could be either Nigerians or foreigners. Foreigners are easy to con because of their naivety.” He recounted how his group conned a Swiss by sending him the picture of a pretty lady who they claimed was a Nigerian former beauty queen. The man established communication with the fraudsters and later exchanged telephone numbers with them believing he was dealing with the lady. Unknown to the Swiss, the fraudsters got a lady to answer his calls. After the scammers sufficiently aroused the interest of the Swiss in his dream lover, the false lady, who was in the game, requested for funds to pay for visa and flight ticket to meet him in Switzerland. He fell for the trick and transferred money. After withdrawing the money, the fraudsters stopped further contact with him.

The former scammer said the tricksters obtain black powers from herbalists to be able to get their victims whether Nigerian or foreigner. “The charms come in different forms, like rings, concoctions, calabash, amulets and other spiritual articles which demand rituals to be performed. In some cases, the body parts of children are used for the rituals,” he explained.

Being a parent in the 21st century has become one of the most challenging tasks one can take on. The internet which is a wonderful educational tool for children can provide them with access to information and knowledge at the touch of a button. It enables them to complete their homework directly on the computer; they can research any school project without long hours at the library, and they can listen to all of their favourite music while doing so. They can keep in touch with friends and families all over the world, sharing emails, photos, and even videos. They can learn new languages with the help of online programmes. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Unfortunately, as beneficial as the internet may be for children today, it is also one of the most dangerous tools they can get their hands on. With just a few clicks of a mouse, a child can go from learning about the mating habits of the spider, monkey to seeing explicit videos on the mating habits of human beings. The amount of pornography on the internet is just as abundant as the amount of educational materials, if not more. Without the proper safeguards in place, one would be surprised just how easy a child can access an adult-oriented website. Most Nigerian parents are not helping matters by adopting a permissive attitude to parenting these days. For that reason, they do not care to know what their children are doing on the internet.

 From all indications, it is the various aspects of cybercrime that have much appeal among the future leaders of Nigeria and this has put the nation among the leading countries with cybercrime perpetrators in the world. Sambo Dasuki, national security adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, said during a presentation of Public Key Infrastructure, PKI, blueprint for Nigeria and stakeholders engagement workshop organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, recently that Nigeria was one of the leading cybercrime perpetrators in the world. He stressed the need for all stakeholders to work assiduously to contain the current security challenges associated with the use of internet and other electronic devices.

Dasuki, who spoke on “Public Infrastructure and National Security,” said the ugly development has painted Nigeria in bad light because it has a collective impact on the nation’s security and economic development. According to him, there is an increasing dependency on computer systems and networks today in Nigeria by the government and citizens to provide critical services.

Dasuki
Dasuki

However, he pointed out that his office had put measures in place to protect all critical information on infrastructure and secure computer systems and networks in Nigeria. These measures, he said, would include the establishment of fully functional national digital forensic laboratory in the office of the NSA. “This is to avail all law enforcement and security agencies, a platform for detailed investigation of cybercrimes in the country.”

Dasuki revealed that plans had been concluded for the establishment of the National Computer Emergency Response Team Centre for the monitoring, detection and analysis of all activities in cyberspace. To mitigate the high incidences of cybercrimes in Nigeria, the NSA said his office had drafted a National Security Bill which had been forwarded to the office of the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice for transmission to the National Assembly as an executive Bill, after consideration by Federal Executive Council, FEC. He further commended the NITDA for presenting PKI blueprint for Nigeria, noting that it would reduce the incidences of cybercrimes in the country.

To Gabriel Suswam, governor of Benue State, the parents are to blame for the increasing crime rate and homosexuality among the youths. He apportioned that blame at a ceremony to mark the 2013 International Day of the Family in Makurdi, the state capital. “Since the family is the nucleus of any society, the consequences of anything that goes wrong with the family will be felt in all segments of the whole society. How on earth will a man want to marry his fellow man and a woman her fellow woman?” he questioned. The governor equally blamed parents for the diminishing family values, pointing out that societal value would be eroded if parents failed to control their children.

Recently, four non-governmental organisations, NGOs, organised a symposium in Abuja on the need to strengthen family values. The organisations were: The Companion, The Criterion, Family Counselling Centre and Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria. The theme of the symposium was: “The Family: Tool for a Sustainable Society.” Experts at the event were of the view that the current high crime rate, moral decadence, and even terrorism could be traced to bad family upbringing. They argued that it would be difficult for a child that had sound family upbringing to be easily lured into armed robbery, homosexuality, kidnapping, prostitution, terrorism and other vices.

Abdul-Malix Abdul-Azeez, president of The Companion, said that all religions have placed great value on the family. According to him, if the family, as the fabric of the society is built up properly, the society will be cohesive and stronger. “As the building fabric of a society, Islam places so much value on the wellbeing and righteousness of family units as the fundamental root that can make or mar the society. Significantly, our womenfolk constitute the engine room of these families and therefore greatly influence the quality of the men folk and youth injected into the system. While sensitisation for the societal families to rise up to this task continues, we need to start building a societal family to facilitate living beyond our differences and embrace a common front against a common enemy. We hope to institutionalise this concept through an annual organisation of this friendly family forum, to constantly examine and explore areas of our strengths for synergy and collective action in solving our common societal problems through socio-religious means,” Abdul-Azeez said.

Abdu
Abdu

The Companion leader said that the organisers of the symposium would make recommendations to the government on ways to move the nation forward in the face of numerous challenges. On her part, Duduyemi Saudat, the chairperson, Ansar-ud-Deen, Maitama Abuja chapter, condemned all forms of societal ills and called on women to rise up and fight against increasing immorality in the nation, especially lesbianism. “Both Muslim clerics and Christian pastors have strongly condemned homosexuality; both the Quran and the Bible condemn it. As a woman leader, I will take the message back to the society,” she said.

Hussaini Abdu, the country director, Action Aid Nigeria, said that urgent measures must be taken to address the numerous problems confronting the family. “There are 10.5 million out of school children in Nigeria and 15 million others in child labour; this means that the family is under stress, which leads to increasing violence and family breakdown. Insurgency is increasing family stress and family crisis have created lots of children in the streets who are very susceptible to manipulation. What we need now is to provide long time interventions; poverty makes people vulnerable; so our aim is to de-radicalise them through various interventions,” Abdu said.

Steven Alumona, a sociologist, said that the 21st century had brought its own set of parenting challenges that were absent when he grew up in the seventies and eighties. “The world has changed from when we were children in the seventies and eighties and even more so for grandparents. However, it is important to be aware of these changes as they explain a lot about why the youth of today differs so much from earlier generations. Knowing this also helps to understand them better and discipline them in more effective ways when necessary,” Alumona said.

According to the sociologist, children of today are exposed to extra-curricular activities from a young age such as playschools, toddler groups, music classes and ballet classes among others. “Technology has taken over our lives. The age at which children are getting mobile phones is becoming younger and younger. Children are also becoming addicted to television, computer, play-station video games and so forth. This is part of the reason for the decline in communication between family members. Divorce rates are increasing all the time. This has dramatically increased the amount of step-parenting and single-parenting. It also obviously has an impact on the emotional status of the child and his outlook on life and relationships. Besides, there is adverse media pressure which encourages and glamorises vices like alcohol, drugs and promiscuity. Children of today grow up believing that these are desirable traits to inculcate.

“There is limited communication these days between parents and their children due to the fact that either one or both parents are working somewhere. Children feel as though their parents are not there for them and, therefore, turn to strangers to confide in. Often, this results in disastrous consequences. Others bottle up their emotions until they explode and hurt others or themselves. Nowadays, there is increase in stress levels of families due to financial pressures, domestic abuse, high crime and violence levels. This results in more tensions within the home which, in turn, lead to more fighting and screaming causing an unhealthy environment for children to grow up. Moreover, there is limited freedom for younger children; children are no longer free to play outside unsupervised due to unprecedented rates of child kidnappings, paedophilia and other crimes. They also can’t take a bus or train without fear of being harassed,” Alumona said.

According to the sociologist, parents would need to teach their children properly and bring them up to meet up with the vast challenges of today’s world. Indeed, good upbringing of children is equally supported by the Holy Bible in Proverbs 22:6 which says: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This is, arguably, most recommendable for children’s upbringing both for Christian and non-Christian parents. It places on the parents the ultimate right and responsibility for raising better children that would make up a healthier society. This advice also ties most, if not all, of the culpability of a child’s undesirable character and choice of direction to the parents. While it’s highly commendable for parents to teach their children the kind of behaviors expected of them, it’s equally pertinent that these parents train them in the way they should go.

Bring back our girls protest in Abuja
Bring back our girls protest in Abuja

The need to inculcate good values in children made the United Nations, UN, to set aside a day as children’s day. The aim was to encourage all countries to institute a day firstly, to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children and secondly to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of children throughout the world. In Nigeria, the children’s day is celebrated on May 27, every year. The day affords many private and public organisations in the country to put together children’s party for the privileged and less privileged children in a bid to give them a sense of belonging. It is also a day media organisations analyse the plight of children in the society and efforts the government and non-governmental organisations make to better the lot of children. This year’s celebration will be different for the simple reason that while searching for education about 276 Nigerian school girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in Chibok on April 14. At the time of this report, all efforts to get them rescued did not succeed despite help from the international community.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that the desire of every parent is to educate his or her children and to see them move on to become self-sufficient in future. But with today’s challenging global economy, free access to the internet and sophistication of high-wire crimes which have made 21st century parenting more cumbersome, the society seems to be under siege. The question now is: how can today’s parents successfully train a generation that will take over from them? Or, is today’s world just so difficult that they are unable to train their children in good morals? Those are questions for everyone who wants to raise children in this modern time.

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