Getting on the social media bandwagon is now an inevitable part of growing up. With affordable smartphones and free internet at their disposal, children are susceptible to unfiltered contents across all networking sites.
To help them be more discerning of their online encounters, the Department of Education (DepEd), Stairway Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) created the #BeCyberSafe Project, which aims to guide learners, teachers, parents, and the school community on how to keep children safe online.
The Project, presented by Karen Alba-Alday, digital marketing head of Nestle Philippines and 2018 Chair of IMMAP’s Education Committee, was divided into three components which include Project for Keeps C, Dalir-Eskwela, and Chatbot.
“At IMMAP, our core mission is advancing digital marketing,” Alba-Alday said. “But we also believe that we need to nurture the digital ecosystem and create a safe internet for all Filipinos including children.”
“Traditionally, in terms of safety, we tend to focus on the physical aspect,” said Education Secretary Leonor Briones. “We are now recognizing that harm is not just limited to the physical world but also to the cyber world. We need to emphasize that we need to catch up on the demand for not just exciting things on the internet but also on the threats it poses.”
Project for Keeps is directed toward teenagers aged 13-16, who are using Facebook and other social networking sites actively. It hopes to enlighten the youth to be more selective in accepting friend requests from people they do not know or they haven’t met personally. Project for Keeps will teach the young, as well as their parents and guardians on how to use the privacy settings of their social media accounts.
Dalir-Eskwela tackles the effects on children of cyberbullying, pornography, endless chatting, online, and addiction to online gaming. The animated content uses the 10 fingers drawn with faces of children, parents, and teachers. The idea of using fingers was drawn from the fact that people use them to tinker with their smartphones and computers. It teaches children to make the right choices with their online life to keep them away from harm. Aside from videos, there are also brochures and posters distributed in schools and communities.
Chatbot is a private messaging helpline where children can report openly any untoward incident they may have encountered online. While still in its development phase, Chatbot aims to gather information from the reporter, in this case, a child or teenager then offer help to handle the child protection concern. The stakeholders will be working with police authorities when necessary.
In the study conducted by Stairway Foundation, 43.8 percent of children aged 13-18 have experienced cyber violence.
“In the cyber world, children are fighting battles with faceless predators and abusers,” said Education Undersecretary Jo Maribujoc. “We need to teach our children cyberlife skills such as who to talk to online, be respectful (of others), and learn the disciplined use of the internet.”
The three institutions — IMMAP, DepEd, and Stairway — aim to arm children and their parents with the information they can use in facing issues online that may not seem as harmful to children as it is in real life.
These digital natives’ idea of “socials” is interacting with people on the internet. They may not even recognize abuse or bullying even if they are not on the receiving end.
“In this forum, I can see that we are in the same platform and we belong in a community of people who are all determined to keep children safe in the cyber world,” said Lars C. Jorgensen, one of the founders of Stairway Foundation. “We are in the process of developing e-learning platform and we aim to reach every single school in the country to teach children how to be cyber safe.”
The launch held at the DepEd office in Pasig City was just the beginning of this advocacy that IMMAP promises to sustain and hopes to reach more schools nationwide.