As it calls for a reimagining of a better world for children, UNICEF Philippines joins the government’s Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP) as it concludes Safer Internet Month with a conversation with children on the importance of digital safety and mental wellness, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to UNICEF Philippines, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the way that children use the Internet, specifically the length of time they may spend online, and the levels of risk to which they may be exposed. The age at which children in the Philippines first go online is, on average, 10 years old, and they spend on average just under two hours (116 minutes) a day online. While the study took place prior to the onset of the pandemic, it reports that the expected length of time that children spend online during the pandemic has increased significantly, as children are forced to turn to the Internet for most of their entertainment, connections, and for e-learning.
This year’s theme, Bagong Normal: Ligtas na Internet for All, the month-long activities kicked off on 9 February, Safer Internet Day, with the launch of the Child Online Safeguarding Policy of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). Republic Act No. 10929 establishes free Internet access in public places in the country and consolidated multi-sectoral commitment. This launch was followed by a series of interactive digital games and activities through the efforts of the Child Rights Network, Plan International Philippines, SaferKidsPH Consortium, and UNICEF Philippines.
To close the month-long campaign, child and adolescent leaders discussed their experiences online and how it affects them. The activity also encouraged children and young people to share their own tips on how to stay safe online amid the increased use of the Internet during the pandemic.
“Tulad ko na isang youth advocate, maaari nating gamitin ang social media upang mas maraming maaabot ang ating adbokasiya. Huwag nating ikukulong ang ating buhay sa social media. Hayaan natin na mag-explore tayo ng mga bagay upang mas makita at ma-improve natin ang ating mga talento,” says Janna, 16 years old, who joined the panel of children during the activity.
(For a youth advocate like me, we can use social media to reach more people about our advocacies. Let’s not limit our lives in social media. Let us explore other things so we can see and improve our talents.)
The concern expressed by both the Council for the Welfare of Children and UNICEF Philippines on the impact of the prolonged community quarantine measures on the psychosocial well-being of children reveals that the increased time being used by children online is leading to less outdoor activity, reduced sleep quality, increased symptoms of anxiety, and unhealthy eating habits.
“By learning from what we have experienced, we can reimagine a future that addresses the digital divide; a reimagined future that ensures your access to health, nutrition, vaccination, clean water and a hygienic environment. One of the most important consideration of our reimagined future is that our children’s mental health must be a priority,” says UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative Behzad Noubary as a call to action towards a safer Internet for all.
UNICEF calls on the support of the government, public and private sector, especially children and young people in fostering a safe and protective digital environment for children. Join us in making safer Internet for kids! Visit: https://www.saferkidsph.org/help-stop-osaec/