INNOTECH conducts Digital Wellbeing of Filipino Learners: A Webinar on Youth Cybersafety and Digital Citizenship

The global pandemic urged a sudden shift to going more digital, and schools are no exception on this. Teachers and school heads turn to online and distance education to make sure that education continues amid the continuing school closure. With the increasing use of digital tools for education, the need to discuss how people, especially the youth, use and act on the digital platforms is more prominent now more than ever. On 28 May 2021, SEAMEO INNOTECH conducted the Digital Wellbeing of Filipino Learners: A Webinar on Youth Cybersafety and Digital Citizenship, via Zoom, with live broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube.

The half-day webinar gave emphasis on the importance of cybersafety and digital citizenship in schools, given the current pandemic situation. Through the presentations of experts from UNESCO Bangkok, Save the Children Philippines, and Stairway Foundation, participants were introduced to the basics of digital citizenship and how schools can further protect and guide their learners as they spend more time in the Cyberworld.

(Related article: INNOTECH conducts Knowledge Forum on Cybersafety of Filipino Learners)

Mr. Toan Dang, Program Officer from UNESCO Bangkok, served as a keynote speaker during the webinar. He discussed how the pandemic has affected the number of youths online, and how this will likely continue in the coming years. With this trend, the importance of teaching the youth on how to be safe, ethical, and effective digital users was further highlighted. The Digital Kids Asia Pacific (DKAP) Framework was also introduced to the participants. This framework, as developed by various organizations including SEAMEO INNOTECH, serves as a guide on how digital citizenship interventions may be implemented through holistic, rights-based, and child-centered approaches.

Among the DKAP Framework domains, Mr. Dang highlighted the importance of Digital Safety and Resilience, or the ability of children to protect themselves and others from harm in the digital space. This involves understanding their rights, personal data, and privacy, among others. Safety is a key aspect of Digital Citizenship and all users, not just the youth, should be knowledgeable on this. He also pointed out the need to improve the learners’ Digital Creativity and Innovation skills, or the ability of children to express themselves and explore through creating contents using ICT tools. This is where the Philippines scored the lowest in the recently conducted comparative research of UNESCO Bangkok. Learners should be encouraged to make the most out of the available digital tools and use them to their advantage. He emphasized the importance of teachers’ and parents’ support in developing this skill.

Mr. Dang’s presentation was followed by an informative session with Ms. April Anne Correa from Save the Children Philippines. As children spend more time online, they become more prone to online risks; one of which is the Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC). Ms. Correa introduced this topic through their project, #SAFERKIDSPH, which aims to reduce the risk of OSAEC in the Philippines. This project is done in close collaboration with key stakeholders such as the government, civil society and private sector, schools and communities, and families to ensure that children are safe and protected online.

OSAEC includes all acts of a sexually exploitative and abusive nature carried out against a child that have a connection to the online environment. Sadly, facilitators of OSAEC are usually adults that the children trust. As the community plays a big role in preventing and addressing OSAEC, #SAFERKIDSPH works closely with schools and local government unit. They conduct awareness raising campaign and capacity building activities to guide schools and communities on the proper handling of sensitive cases such as this. They also guide the school personnel and law enforcers on how to better communicate with an OSAEC victim.

With this online risk, Ms. Correa stressed on the importance of online safety, particularly in social media. She also highlighted the importance of having protocols and guidelines on the proper handling of such issues.

Related to the previous discussion, Mr. Ysrael Diloy from Stairway Foundation, Inc. further discussed the different type of online risks faced by children as they transition to alternative mode of education. While these risks are already present before the pandemic, these have been amplified with the online and distance education. Unsafe or inappropriate online interactions may be avoided if there is an established school-based Child Protection Policy. The Philippine Department of Education already has a general Child Protection Policy in place, but this needs to be localized based on the context of the school. He recommended including specific protocols or Code of Conduct for online classes and communications. As teachers and students become friends on social media, he also emphasized the need to have a guide on what teachers should be posting online. Teachers need to be very careful on what they post and share online as their learners might see it. Most importantly, schools should also establish safe and reliable help channels, such as psychosocial support, to the learners.

While these are on the policy level, Mr. Diloy encouraged the schools to involve the students when crafting their school-based Child Protection Policy. This will allow them to develop policies that are responsive to the needs of their learners. He also encouraged the schools to integrate digital citizenship concepts in their subjects. Digital citizenship does not have to be a separate subject in schools. It would be easier to understand if its concepts are applied in different subject areas.

During the latter half of the program, the participants were also able to further explore the different Digital Citizenship concepts through a breakout session. The breakout session allowed the participants to reflect on and discuss among each other the importance of teaching three identified Digital Citizenship-related topics to the learners: Misinformation, Online Addiction, and Cyberstalking. The activities are based on INNOTECH’s e-Citizenship Learning Packets intended for classroom discussions.

Two youth representatives were invited to share their reactions on the sessions. A student from the Quezon City Science High School, Ms. Cristiane Vania Benoza, was invited to share her thoughts and insights after hearing the discussions in the first half of the program. What stood out the most for her is the need for a school code of conduct on how teachers and learners interact among each other. She thinks that there would be a big difference if people would be mindful of what they say and how they interact online. She also pointed out that the internet is a beautiful space for learning, but at the same time, it has a lot of dangers. It is important to find the balance between preventing the risks and harnessing the internet to empower users so that there can be more educated learners and users of digital space.

An ALS Learner from Davao City, Mr. Schan Jerryl Vidal, shared his thoughts after the breakout sessions. In this forum, he realized the significance and relevance of cybersafety; it is vital, knowing that meeting strangers online is inevitable. As a student, what he can do is raise awareness among his peers about these online opportunists and remind them to protect their own data online. If there are more digital literate people, they can help spread information to those who lacks knowledge on it.

Know more about Digital Citizenship and how you can teach it in the classroom through SEAMEO INNOTECH’s e-Book on e-Citizenship. Learning Packets are also available on the MT4T website to help teachers discuss Digital Citizenship concepts through interactive and fun activities.

Digital Wellbeing of Filipino Learners: A Webinar on Youth Cybersafety and Digital Citizenship is part of SEAMEO INNOTECH’s series of knowledge forum on key education concerns in Southeast Asia. This event is supported by the National Privacy Commission, BDO Foundation, Justice Institute of British Columbia, Google, and Facebook’s Digital Tayo.

You can access the webinar materials here: https://bit.ly/DigitalWellbeing-materials

Watch the full webinar below:

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