Safer Internet Day 2014: Let’s create a better internet together

Local advocacy for online safety among school children in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental in the Philippines peaked during the worldwide celebration “Safer Internet Day” (SID) last February 11, 2014. The worldwide call “Let’s create a better internet together” reverberated along the campus halls of three local schools here: the Aninuan Elementary School, the San Isidro Elementary School and the Puerto Galera National High School – San Isidro Annex.  View images

Susan Serafico, a Stairway Child Rights Advocate, briefly discussed with the students the relevance of the worldwide celebration and its tagline– discussing the broad opportunities the internet has to offer to kids, of making friends online, safeguarding personal information and how to report incidents that upset them like cyber pornography and cyberbullying.

More than 150 Grade 5 and Grade 6 pupils from two elementary schools formed themselves into groups to draw colorful strokes on posters that depict their dream of a perfect online world. Meanwhile, some 80 high school students from White Beach in San Isidro honed their acting prowess, writing skills, and teamwork to create short videos that tackle the nature of online issues and how to address these.

The poster and video making activities to celebrate SID come as a culmination to a series of regular local advocacy work among schools here at Puerto Galera where Stairway Foundation Learning and Resource Center is based.  Beginning on the later part of 2013 until early 2014, Stairway has reached out to more than 300 pupils and students to conduct sessions on Online Safety and Child Sexual Abuse Prevention to its neighbor schools. Last 2012, Stairway made a large nationwide study on cyberbullying which affirmed the prevalence of the problem among the youth and children in the Philippines.

These indispensable efforts help raise awareness among the children and youth in a locality where tourism is bustling and internet shops are sprouting near school premises. While still in a typical developing world setting where most children and families can’t afford to buy gadgets like tablets and smart phones, most of the children here are not unfamiliar with downloaded porn materials kept on their cell phones and unreported incidents of cyber bullying. Quite a few students spend their time after school in internet shops with their friends playing online games or hanging out on social networking sites. Internet shops are tailored to low budget customers by offering the “Piso Internet” or “Cyberya” for those who can’t afford the usual P20-P30 pesos internet use per hour– with less money, even with P1 peso, a child can use internet for 4 minutes if she/he slips a one-peso coin into the coin slot. The internet business finds ways to be accessible to more children and youth in the face of limited and restricted internet access offered in their schools.

Now on its 11th year, Safer Internet Day is celebrated all over the world annually during the second day of the second week of the second month of the year. Safer Internet Day celebrations in the Philippines is spearheaded by the Stairway Foundation with its SID committee composed of Break the Silence Network members, a network of NGO’s in the Philippines advocating child protection and  Project Angelnet, the online child protection law enforcement arm of the Philippine National Police.

The posters and the videos created by the students for SID will be uploaded online. Through this, the message “Let’s make a better internet together” will not only resonate on their campuses but all over the world.