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Indigenous | Social media

Is social media addicting your kids?

A social enterprise aimed at tackling a global issue is looking into Māori and Pasifika first.

Digital Discipline is an Auckland enterprise founded and run by Tony Laulu. He is looking to help the growing numbers of rangatahi being overcome by social media.

In research that he conducted about social media addiction it finds.

  • 85% of students admitted to losing track of time while using social media leading to poor time management;
  • 60% of students report disrupted sleep patterns due to excessive screen time; and.
  • 35% of students admit to experiencing emotional instability due to social media.

Laulu says social media addiction is a real issue and what he and his team does is treat it as such.

Not recognised

“It’s not a recognised addiction at the World Health Organisation but it does have some addictive properties in terms of how it consumes our lives, how much time it takes. So we’re out there in our communities, our schools and other organisations to help our people and our families understand the impact that it has,” he says.

Laulu (Samoa) established Digital Discipline in 2019 as a call to address an issue that he was facing personally, what he says was an addiction to social media. Digital Discipline has now worked with The Ministry of Education, Oranga Tamariki, Ministry of Pacific Peoples and many others.

Video games were internationally recognised in the International Classification of Diseases as a gaming disorder in 2019. Laulu believes social media should be included in that list due to its impactful nature.

Laulu says despite the harm social media can do to its users, it isn’t as if it should be banned completely.

“It’s such an interesting thing, it is a magnificent tool, ironically we’re on it as well. But to me it’s always like a double-edged sword because, that tool, that platform that you can educate yourself on, bring awareness to stuff on, is also the thing that you can waste away hours and hours on as well,” he says.

Some leniency for entertainment

Digital Discipline runs workshops in schools and companies as well as consultations for those who may be suffering from social media addiction and work through solutions to provide better digital productivity.

“The question usually is: How do I use this tool for my benefit and for my improvement? There’s probably some leniency when it does come to entertainment but I think, if we’re honest, if we were to put percentages of productivity time and then leisure and entertainment time, I think it is absolutely lop-sided over to entertainment.”

Social media platforms such as Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook are tailored to people’s interests, creating algorithms around their interactions on the platforms.

Laulu and the Digital Discipline team believe social media is “the new smoking, harmful to health, yet hard to quit”. But the enforcement of controlling social media usage isn’t only a job for the rangatahi.

Laulu says, “The last challenge about that is we as parents need to follow through with the same rules as well. That’s what’s important to our children, they model that behavior as well instead of ‘do what I say and not what I do’.

“We either create or we consume and I would love for our people to be more on the creation side, be creative.”