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Ensuring Digital Safety for Children in the Philippines

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The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is spearheading an initiative focused on “responsible digital parenting” to foster a safer online environment, particularly for the younger generation.

Image credits: Philippine Information Agency

Ibrahim Guiapar, DICT Regional Director, emphasised the pivotal role parents play in monitoring their children’s online activities, highlighting the necessity of cooperation between government programmes and parental oversight for the success of creating a secure cyberspace.

Guiapar stressed the importance of parental awareness regarding their children’s digital engagements, given the widespread accessibility of advanced and often costly gadgets among youth. He emphasised the need for vigilant monitoring, stating, “With the advent of technology, it is important to monitor children’s online activities.” He pointed out the risk associated with children’s unbridled use of technology, citing instances where youngsters exhibit a lack of responsibility and accountability in their online behaviours.

To address these concerns, DICT has been actively engaged in conducting lectures and orientations on digital literacy, cybercrime awareness, and data privacy in various schools. These educational sessions not only target students but also involve parents, guardians, and educators. Guiapar emphasised that the initiative aims to equip parents with the necessary skills to guide their children towards responsible online conduct and ensure their safety in the digital realm.

Collaborating with the Philippine National Police’s Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit (RACU), DICT is conducting a series of trainings aimed at empowering parents to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape effectively. The trainings cover topics such as discipline in the digital realm and responsible social media usage. Guiapar emphasised the need for setting limits and exercising responsibility in online activities, stating, “There must be a limit, and there must be a responsibility that not everything can be posted.”

Police Executive Master Sergeant Edwin Arroyo, chief of the investigation section of the PNP’s Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit, underscored the inherent risks associated with unrestricted internet access for children. He highlighted potential dangers such as cyberbullying, scams, and exposure to online predators. He urged parents and guardians to proactively monitor their children’s online activities, warning against complacency in safeguarding their well-being.

Arroyo shared alarming incidents where online operations led to the arrest of perpetrators involved in the online sexual exploitation of children and minors. He expressed concern over the growing trend of young children, as young as two years old, accessing digital devices and consuming online content unsupervised.

Arroyo emphasised the importance of raising awareness and taking preemptive measures to prevent such incidents from occurring, stating, “So it is much better to be aware and not wait for someone or our own child to become a victim.”

In the first quarter of 2024 alone, DICT conducted at least eight cybersecurity courses, predominantly targeting schools and involving over 500 participants. Arroyo reiterated the importance of proactive measures, emphasising the need for parents and guardians to be proactive and vigilant in monitoring their children’s online activities.

Through collaborative efforts and increased awareness, DICT and the PNP aim to create a safer online environment for children, ensuring their digital well-being and security in an increasingly connected world.

The Philippines is actively striving to ensure the safety of children in the digital realm through multifaceted initiatives involving parents, teachers, and communities alike.

OpenGov Asia reported that Senator Win Gatchalian had raised concerns about the increasing risk of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) exacerbated by artificial intelligence (AI) during the National Awareness Week for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in the Philippines, urging the government to take decisive action.

The proliferation of AI-driven tools presents a complex challenge in protecting children from harmful online content, necessitating a multifaceted approach combining technological solutions, regulatory frameworks, and parental supervision.

Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) Undersecretary Angelo Tapales emphasised the urgency of vigilance in addressing the rise of AI-driven threats, including the manipulation of children’s images, which heightens the risk of child exploitation.


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