Social media parenting leaves children exposed The obsession with social media platforms has become as worrisome as man’s time old inclinations towards the gruesome, macabre and brutish in his quest to conquer the world, which ironically, holds a spell over him.

Elliot Ziwira-Senior Writer

AS their parents bungle on child-rearing, children, in their quest to solve the enigma of birth, have been exposed to the 21st century and its information superhighway, which has brought social media, the new parenting tool in vogue, often with disastrous consequences.

Hooked up to social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, where pretence overwhelms reality in the feel-good search for hollow ‘likes’,  today’s adults have become “auto parents”.

Consequently, they expose their children to villainous minders, death merchants and paedophiles, who are always prowling in the woods, waiting to pounce.

With wingless birds tweeting ad infinitum mid-flight, a video in which modern day parenting comes under scrutiny, has gone viral.

In the clip, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, in conjunction with COC Ruwa, through a representative, beseeches parents to take parenting seriously, saying it is not the duty of the Police to look after their children.

“As the Zimbabwe Republic Police, in collaboration with COC Ruwa, we keep on reminding each other on our daily travails as a people”, the eloquent officer says, adding, “A sad development is making the rounds out there in which parents are seen wanting as they remain in bed, while their little children go to school on their own.”

The mainstream media is awash with heartrending stories — gory stories of murder, either for ritual purposes or otherwise — stories of children becoming mothers — stories of virgins targeted for rape — and stories of children being run over by speeding vehicles.  

So many agonising stories involving innocent children being exposed to the darkness of man’s heart. These are tales that have a way of flying out of the pages of gothic novels and dislocating from horror movies to land on our realities, with our children becoming major characters in the wrenching of our bleeding hearts.

And, as all this is unfolding, parents or would-be parents frantically hit the keys of their gadgets of whatever guise in their ascendancy up the Orwellian Sugarcandy Mountain, oblivious to the dangers they expose their children to.

Indeed, as the people’s policeman, who is roundly applauded for his professionalism and warmth, articulates, the world has become a jungle in which only the fittest make it out to the next battle. 

To expect children to be knights in shining armour, therefore, would be tempting fate one time too many.

It wouldn’t take much of their time for parents to accompany their children to and from school, and be involved in their daily routines. 

Alternatively, they should put them in school closer to their abodes, instead of them commuting from one side of town to another far-flung end, alone.

Also, parents should not write children’s names on their bags as this would expose them to “heart-harvesters”, pretending to be family. 

By simply calling out their names as inscribed on their bags, strangers with ulterior motives would make the children lower their guards, even if they may have been raised to be wary of unfamiliar people.

The message in the video is as clear as the reality on the ground speaks — children have become their own keepers. They are literally left to their devices, presumably in the care of pseudo-parents in the form of maids and other domestic helpers.

Balancing breadwinner and parenting has never been any easier, but the advent of social media has compounded an already precarious situation. Yet, the desire to harm has remained ensconced in man’s heart, which should make parents even more watchful of their children.

But the obsession with social media platforms has become as worrisome as man’s time old inclinations towards the gruesome, macabre and brutish in his quest to conquer the world, which ironically, holds a spell over him.

One wonders what inner torment makes the human psyche derive excitement from the trauma and grief of fellow beings, particularly where worldly riches are involved.

Seemingly shunned by the gods of good fortune, eluded by opportunity and spurned by mother luck, man has been known to extend his hand to anything that appears to be a low-hanging fruit; often taking leave of his senses.

The lengths to which people go to acquire riches are varied, sometimes bordering on the insane, bizarre, contemptible and hair-raising.

So widespread are incidents of ritual killing, particularly involving children, that in recent times barely a fortnight passes without the Zimbabwean media reporting on the heinous act in its various ghastly shades.

Death appears to have become fashionable in changing people’s lifestyles through money-making sacraments where human blood and choice body parts are concocted to presumed instant riches.   

Mysteries surrounding murder and rape cases as well as the reasons behind them have been known to engulf communities in both grief and fear, mostly where the perpetrators are not brought to book. 

Hence, the Police’s constant reminder for parents to return to parenting modes of yore, instead of being keyboard warriors in wars that usually exist only in their heads.

Because social media is unfeeling and follows no rules of etiquette, parents are immersed in both anguish and fear, as they witness the sight of their lifeless bundle of joy sprawled out in a pool of blood, with eyes gouged out, face smashed in, stomach sliced open and limbs hacked with hacksaw precision on their favourite platforms.

In situations where the only witnesses would be the all-seeing and voiceless moon, gleaming like a huge diamond on black velvet, and tweeting honey birds, the killer walks scot-free.

It may be so that the handle on the story remains loose, and the lid refuses to close, but who should carry the cross? 

Defeated by reason and seemingly shunned by conventional laws of fairness, the confused community may appeal to karma to locate the murderer, rapist or hit-and-run motorist, and say to him/her: “My name is justice, follow me!” But at whose door should karma first knock?

As the community searches deeper into its pockets of collective memory to determine what could have happened to one of its own, whose departure was neither premeditated nor explicable, parenthood should be given a jolt.

The diviner’s wand should first fall on the parent as the principal culprit.

Indeed, neither the maid—the pseudo-parent, the teacher, nor the Police, can replace a biological parent in the lookout for the marauding beast of prey in a jungle in which young tender hearts are a delicacy.

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