With the growing pull of communication technology and networking in social media, humans can be said to be fast becoming narcissistic; a growing obsession with the self and self-image. This is in addition to the growing craze for vain popularity and self-projection without prejudice to the rich benefits of the media. Youth and teenagers seem to be the worst hit; a cesspool is being created that seeks to sip away the human person’s creativity, ingenuity, spiritual and rational capacities in exchange for an offer of isolation, idleness, depression, physical and virtual (social media/cyber) bullies. The ultimate result is loss of self-worth, confused personality and goals in life expressed in self-indulgence of various sorts, particularly anti-social sexual behaviours.
The statistics are clearly mind boggling. In some quarters obsession with the media has contributed to cheating in school assignments. A study has shown that students who are heavy social media users have an average GPA of 3.06 while non-users have 3.82. Students who go online while studying scored 20% lower in examination. Work productivity has also been affected as 51% of users between the age brackets of 25-34 checked the social media at work. This has been proven to be very harmful to employment prospects as employers often assess employees’ social media profiles and updates to check profanity, spelling and grammar, sexism, alcoholism, sexual contents and even religious contents (https://turbofuture.com/internet/effects-of-social-media-on-our-youth).
In terms of sexuality, the statistics are also unsettling. According to Kunkel D. et al in their work, Sex on TV, Content and Context, (Menlo Park (CA): Kaiser Family Foundation, 1999), about 80% of movies displayed on network or cable TV have sexual content. This has become of serious worries to policy makers and health scientists. In the US, for example, studies have shown that nearly half of teenage population have had sexual intercourse. In a study carried out on virgin teenagers it was discovered that without vaginal intercourse, some teenagers have experimented on other intimate sexual practices with serious health dangers (Schuster, M.A, 1996). It should be kept in mind, however, that the statistics vary according to demographic differences; the level of involvement in the Western world is not the same with the African and Asian world. The same goes for age brackets as older teenagers tend to interpret and become more influenced by sexuality in the media.
Consequently, teenagers and youths are most defenseless against the negative impact of sexually explicit contents in the media. This is because it is at this developmental stage that gender roles, sexual behaviours, attitudes and choices are formed. It is at this stage also that they begin to clearly pattern their dreams and choose careers/professions and vocations. The developmental characteristics, at this stage include among others, experimentation, emotional insecurity, and mood swings. Others are physical bodily changes including rapid weight gain, social conformity with peers (bandwagon attitude), fear of being unpopular among peers, high sensitivity to praise and recognition, and simulation of self-confidence. Psychically, youths and teenagers have longer concentration span.
Let it be noted at this point that by youth we adopt the UN’s definition which means those “persons between the ages of 15-24 years without prejudice to other definitions by Member States.” Based on this flexible UN definition, the Nigerian National Youth Policy (1999) pegs youth age between 18-35 years while the African Youth Charter puts it at 15-29 years. We shall evaluate this variance subsequently. Let us simply stay with a general description of youth as a period of transition from childhood dependence to adulthood independence.
The purpose of our above evaluation of the characteristics and challenges of the age of youth in relation to sexuality and our present cultural and technological trends lies in the fact that sexuality is about the human person; it involves the whole being of the person. This also means that nature and nurture wield significant influence on the attitudes and behaviours of youth. Since it involves the human person and his choices, it is a moral issue. Thus sexuality bears a relationship with love and responsibility. In other words, love, sexual urge and vocation to marriage and chastity are intertwined. Consequently, we can say that the issue of sex is the issue of the body (see John Paul II, Love and Responsibility, 1981); it is difficult to understand sexuality without understanding who the person is, both as a human and as a creature of God with a vocation to holiness.
Also, we shall employ various analytical tools and methods of study in the diverse fields of moral philosophy, moral theology, medicine, health care, physiology, psychology and socio-economics in our study of the youth, sexual behaviour and vocations. The fundamental assumption here is that, ultimately, there should be a confluence between life and doctrine, between love and life and between love and truth. This means that the submissions to be arrived at on any given topic go beyond a simple explication of doctrine. Doctrinal explication would only serve as a means of throwing light on the practical challenges and difficulties of sexual responsibility and for justifying it. Understood in is light, doctrine would not be taken as merely forbidding and commanding but also to explain and interpret. Our basic moral truth of Church doctrine on sexuality comes essentially from the New Testament (and its Old Testament parallels where necessary). This doctrine holds that the human person is a most fundamental good to be loved and valued, not abused. This is clearly explained in the Church’s moral theology.
Therefore, this post/column would from time to time, as divine wisdom leads, feature issues that border on human dignity, youth development, youth policies and policy development, characteristics of youth, challenges of the youth in contemporary world, sex and sexuality, certain sexual challenges among youth and teenagers, influences on sexual behaviours, maintaining good sexual behaviours and habits, overcoming unhealthy sexual behaviours and affectivity such as masturbation, homosexuality, incest, paedophilia, among others. The aim is to contribute to the integral development of youth and teenagers as they prepare for the challenges of life in their vocations whether as married men and women or as chaste celibate priest and religious. Thus, while the primary focus is on those yet in the pre-marriage stage of human development, the married would still find it a relevant signpost not only for their lives but also for guiding their children and wards.