The Financial Express

Mobiles and adolescent girls  

| Updated: April 06, 2021 22:04:10

Mobiles and adolescent girls   

The percentage of mobile phone users among the country's adolescents has long been a matter of guesswork. Till now few extensive surveys have been carried out to identify the number of these mobile users in the country. According to a recent survey, more than 90 per cent of young adults, both male and female, in the country are now accustomed to using these phones. This fact has a lot to do with the teenage students using their smart-phones to attend online classes, as schools have yet to open formally. The scene is, however, mostly limited to urban areas due to the easy availability of online facility.

As the survey has observed, at least half of the phones used by adolescents in villages are the 'smart' ones, and almost 50 per cent of unmarried males and one-fifth of both married and unmarried female adolescents access the internet at least once a week. The survey was conducted in five phases between July, 2019 and January, 2020. It covered 72,800 households comprising around 18,000 adolescents aged 15-19 years. Titled Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Survey, the report, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, took attempts to examine and understand the state of health and wellbeing of the country's adolescents. The report has 12 chapters. It touches upon an array of topics that include, among others, exposure to media, marriage, gender norms, violence, mental health, nutrition, social connectedness with family and friends etc. The survey observes 73 per cent of unmarried post-teenage girls are eager to learn about various types of their physical complications and the changes in mood, as they enter adulthood. A number of them remain stay put --- ignorant and without having clear answers to the queries. It is presumed to be caused by the technical limitations of their mobile phones having no internet facility. As expected, it results in the adolescent girls, especially those in rural areas, relying on assorted books for getting the information. The knowledge from these books of mixed standards coupled with popular beliefs and superstitions is said to mislead many adolescent girls. Thanks to these unwarranted developments, lots of innocent but inquisitive female adolescents end up being victims of many health hazards.

This depressing plight related to female adolescents has long been prevailing in the country's vast rural areas. Both unmarried and married girls comprise them. Many blame family poverty, notably the incapability to buy a smart-phone, for this hazardous condition the girls are stuck in. Apart from the fact of one in ten teenage girls being underweight, the survey presents a lot of upbeat information. It says 76-85 per cent of these girls consume adequately diversified diet, which include fruits and vegetables, starchy food, dairy, protein and fat.

That the use of mobile phone-based internet has played a critical role in the adolescent girls' sufficient dietary intake is understood. Experts believe there should be optimal utilisation of the women-only helplines.  By calling it, among others, girls can have access to tips and information prepared by women specialising in their exclusive problems. Apart from the major social adversities facing adolescent girls, there are insidious scourges that chip away at the adolescent girls' inherent strength. Those come in the forms of harassment at school, downplaying of their social role and widespread discrimination. Smart-phones come to the rescue of these girls.  It is through this communication many adolescent girls, detached from schools and colleges, have been found stepping into online entrepreneurship from their homes.

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