Participants during the Conference on Digital Parenting demonstrate how connectivity works.

Participants during the Conference on Digital Parenting demonstrate how connectivity works.

“Gadgets cannot replace the relationship between parents and children. Personal interaction is still the most important facet of parenting.”

This was the message emphasized by advocates of child protection which include national government agencies (NGAs) and non-government organizations (NGOs), who gathered over the weekend to tackle the challenges of digital parenting.

As part of the 26th National Children’s Month celebration, the Conference on Digital Parenting held in Quezon City on November 17 focused on how technology affects parenting styles. It was led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), an attached agency of DSWD; and, the National Youth Commission (NYC) with partner NGAs and NGOs.

In her message, CWC Executive Director Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy emphasized the impact of social media in the lives of children.

“Gadgets, such as mobile phones, are now the most common gifts of parents to their children whenever they get high grades,” Dir. Cajayon-Uy said.

“Social media provides connection and knowledge, but it also has negative effects, so parents must ensure that their children are protected against online predators, cyberbullying, and other dangers in the world wide web,” Dir. Cajayon-Uy added.

On the other hand, Department of Information, Communication and Technology (DICT) Assistant Secretary, Atty. Carlos Mayorico E. Caliwara said that technology has replaced traditional parenting so parents must continue to educate themselves for them to properly guide their children.

Meanwhile, psychologist and guidance counselor, Dr. Michelle Alignay, shared, “One drawback of technology is that children nowadays do not know how to wait because digital media has taught them to get what they want and what they need to know immediately.  Hence, children and youth become used to instant gratification, not realizing that patience builds up character and discipline.”

Kids’ survey

Moreover, the issue of child online safety was tackled by Atty.  Maria Michelle Munoz, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Child Online Protection Coordinator, who presented the results of the Global Kids Online survey conducted in selected barangays in Metro Manila and nearby province in Pampanga.

The survey results showed the online use and access of children aged 9-17. Global Kids Online aims to educate and protect children on online sexual abuse and exploitation (OSAEC).

Some of the findings indicate that the average age of first internet use among participants in the survey was 9 years old. Almost all children surveyed are hooked online and spend some precious time in their daily lives accessing the internet, most of the children access the internet at home, in school, coffee shops or malls, cybercafes and Pisonet, and a few through the mobile phone.

Moreover, most children often used a smartphone and a tablet to go online. In general, children in the younger age group (9-11 years old) had limited use of devices to access the internet compared to older age groups, and most children connect to the internet by themselves, while those who cannot connect on their own were helped by their parents.

Most popular sites visited by children include social media networks and search engine platforms, such as Facebook, Youtube, Google, Yahoo, and online games, among others.

The survey also identified the risks experienced by children when they go online, such as exposure to exploitative strangers, cyberbullying, cybersex and other forms of harm.

In summary, over-all internet safety is assured among Filipino children through their own proactive stance and through parental, teacher and peer mediation. ###