#BeCyberSafe project aims to shield children from online abuse

Naomi Maraviles

Posted at Dec 04 2018 09:44 PM

A man types using a backlit keyboard. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

The Department of Education (DepEd) has launched the #BeCyberSafe project to educate students, teachers, and parents regarding the online threats against children and how they can remain safe online. 

The DepED, along with Stairway Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP), introduced #BeCyberSafe to the press on November 9. It was unveiled to coincide with the National Children’s Month celebration every November.

"In the cyber world, we are oftentimes fighting a battle against predators and abusers who are faceless and nameless," DepEd's Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Josephine Maribojoc said in her opening remarks. She added that a person can easily "hide behind anonymity" in the cyberspace and present online dangers to a child.

The dangers of cyberspace that the DepED recognizes include cyberbullying, online gaming addiction, online child abuse and pornography, and harmful internet chats. The #BeCyberSafe project aims to counter these online threats with cyber safety materials that will teach children how to act responsibly online and how parents can guide their children with the use of the Internet.

According to Maribojoc, #BeCyberSafe will teach the children cyber life skills and will "empower them to be responsible and equipped citizens of the cyber world."

The Project for Keeps, Dalir-Eskwela, and Chatbot are the three main components of the project which is a social media movement, the distribution of educational materials, and a Facebook Messenger-based helpline, respectively.

DANGERS OF CYBERSPACE

According to the Stairway Foundation Survey of 2015, 60% of children ages 7-12 are victims of cyberbullying. These children are bullied online through instant messages (IMs), chat rooms, text messages, and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Cyberbullying Research Center, meanwhile, said in a statement that two out of ten children that are bullied online have thoughts of self-harm.

Aside from cyberbullying, children can encounter other forms of danger, such as excessive online gaming, online pornography, and harmful chatting. The three components of #BeCyberSafe are the materials that will inform the parents and the school community regarding these threats.

Project for Keeps is the social media movement of the project that is implemented primarily on Facebook. The focus of this component is to educate teenagers with active and public Facebook accounts on how to take control of their personal accounts and build defenses against online predators.
 
Dalir-Eskwela is a set of educational materials intended to provide information regarding key issues on cyber safety. The materials offered include videos for the students, brochures for the parents, and posters for the school community.

 

The materials discuss the concept of these cyber issues – cyberbullying, online chatting, online gaming, and online pornography – and provide tips on how parents can make their children safe and how students can properly use the Internet.

The third component of the project, Chatbox, is a Messenger-based helpline that will serve as a platform for students to report their online abusers. The goal of the Chatbox chatbot is to gather information from children who speak to it to report their situations, and help them handle any difficulties. It is still undergoing improvements.

These materials are yet to be distributed to the school community through DepEd. However, lesson plans about cyber safety have already been launched, and will be embedded within the curriculum. 

Other government agencies, such as the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), also expressed their support for the program.

Facebook has also committed to helping the #BeCyberSafe program by producing local videos to be used by the initiative.

DepEd and its partner organizations, however, have yet to discuss the issues of enforcement and further action against offenders with the police and other agencies.