Save the Children Philippines on Friday urged parents and guardians to ensure the online safety of children as many of them spend more time on digital platforms due to limited mobility under the government-mandated Enhanced Community Quarantine that aims to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines said the internet helps children and youth continue learning and ease boredom by interacting with friends and classmates on social media, but they can be exposed to inappropriate content, cyber-bullying and online abuse and sexual exploitation.
“Children and young people have the right to access information and express themselves through the digital platforms,” said Atty. Muyot, adding that: “Parents and guardians should also monitor children’s use of the internet since they are easy prey for online predators.”
Atty. Muyot said that as an alternative to the internet, parents and guardians should conduct face-to-face activities such as board games, read along, and other activities that promote bonding with their children.
The National Baseline Survey on Violence Against Children in 2016 revealed that nearly one in two children aged 13-17 experience cyberviolence while one in four children are being exposed to sexually explicit content.
Save the Children Philippines is part of a consortium implementing the SaferKidsPH program together with The Asia Foundation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). SaferKidsPH, an Australian Government initiative, is working towards reducing online sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the Philippines (OSAEC).
SaferKidsPH has lined up recommendations to parents, guardians and concerned agencies, as well as children and youth, to ensure safety in using the internet. These include:
1. For information on COVID-19, before sharing, check the source of your information. Reliable sources include the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH). We all mean well, but when we unwittingly share fake news or incorrect information, it can cost lives to other people or create unnecessary panic. Always remember to also be kind in your comments towards others.
2. Never show your personal details. Do not post or send your phone number, credit card details, home address, and the name or location of your school to anyone you meet online or to any social networking site.
3. Never meet in person with anyone you first “met” online. If someone asks to meet you, tell your parents or guardian right away. Some people may not be who they say they are.
4. Never respond to mean, nasty, suggestive or rude emails or posts. Delete all unwanted messages. You may need to unfriend, delete, or unfollow people who continuously post content which you find bothersome, distasteful and inappropriate.
5. Do not hang around a chat room if someone says or writes something which makes you feel uncomfortable or worried.
6. Do not download and install any software on your phone, tablet or computer without checking first with your parents or guardians. Some applications may be harmful to your devices and compromise your privacy.
7. Do not share your password with anyone, including your best friend. The only people who should know your password, other than yourself, are your parents or guardians.
8. Do tell your parents or guardians if you see bad language, distasteful pictures and inappropriate video while you are online.
9. Do remember that if someone makes you an offer that is too attractive like getting rich instantly, meeting a celebrity, or making you famous, the offer is most likely a trap.
10. Use the privacy settings on social networking sites. Keep them as high as possible.
11. Think carefully before posting pictures or videos of yourself. Once you have uploaded a photo or video online, other people can see it and may be able to download it. Never post inappropriate photos of anyone, including yourself, your family and friends.
“Save the Children is committed to work with the local government units and civil society in establishing school and community-based child protection mechanisms to address cyberbullying, and online sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” said Atty. Muyot.