Muslim Youth of Santa Clarita gave children, teenagers and parents an idea on how to keep themselves safe from the ills of social media and online culture during a youth support program in Santa Clarita on Sunday.
More than 20 children and teenagers listened to keynote speaker Dr. Aakash Ahuja, board psychiatrist at the California State Prison, Los Angeles County, in Lancaster. He discussed how human interaction evolved over time, and how it was affected with the introduction of mailing and then the telephone, followed by the introduction of Facebook in 2004.
“Cultures change, then came the restaurants and the cafes,” Ahuja said. “People started meeting there, people used to eat there, play chess, play different things and people used to interact. But the idea was people were meeting because that’s what we do as human beings. Then Mr. (Alexander) Graham Bell brought about something and invented the telephone.”
Once an individual sees a “like” status on their social media profile, it releases dopamine into the body, a way of artificially controlling the mind with happiness, he said. He advised the teems to “make technology work for you, not you work for technology,” and explained the dangers of cyberbullying and internet memes and challenges, such as the Kiki Challenge and the Momo Challenge, which have led to not just mental but physical harm to children and teenagers.
Some of the children in attendance shared their thoughts and experiences, to which Ahuja emphasized the importance of using one’s community as a resource for help, beginning with parents. If a child at all feels threatened, bullied or under pressure, they should talk to their parents, who then should hear their children and, Ahuja said, “not be dismissive, be supportive.”
“I’ll keep it with me,” said Youssef Elnagar, a member of MYSC’s kids club. “It doesn’t only take an adult that can do something to change the world.”
MYSC member Salma Metwaly concurred, as some of her friends have undergone cyberbullying.
“Besides cyberbullying, I’ve also seen people be affected by the effects of social media, like addiction,” she said. “So I think hearing firsthand from a psychiatrist was really beneficial and validated the facts that everybody’s like, ‘It’s not good for you, but it’s really not good for you.’”
Before the youth support program concluded and opened the next event, American Muslim Orators Toastmasters, it was announced that there would be a continuation of Ahuja’s presentation and a mentoring group will be initiated through MYSC to help children and teenagers dealing with different problems and work to resolve them.
The program concluded with an announcement about the progress toward securing a permanent location for the nonprofit, which would provide several different services and programs to help young Muslims all across the Santa Clarita Valley.