While Senator Win Gatchalian seeks to make the internet accessible to the country’s learners, he also pressed the importance of making it a safe space for all Filipino children.
The 2020 study “Philippine Kids Online” backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund showed that on average, the age at which children first go online is 10. While most children have fun when they go online, fewer than one in two feel safe using the internet. The study also showed that one in four children in the Philippines encountered sexual images online. One in seven received sexual messages in the past year, while one in five reported that something has happened at least once over the past year that upset or bothered them.
The study also showed that very few children who experience any form of unwanted sexual attention or contact sought help or assistance for their experience. One in five deleted messages from the person, while less than one in ten reported the problem or the person on the relevant account or platform.
While more than half of children in the Philippines find it easy or very easy to speak to their parents about things that upset them, children feel that their parents and caregivers prefer to try and restrict their internet use than speaking to them about what they do online, spending time with them online, or teaching appropriate skills.
“Bagama’t isinusulong nating maabot ng internet ang bawat bata o mag-aaral sa bansa para sa kanilang edukasyon, nais din nating tiyakin na ligtas ito para sa kanila, lalo na’t ang internet ay maaaring gamitin sa iba’t ibang anyo ng pang-aabuso at karahasan,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
Gatchalian has filed Senate Bill No. 1985 or the Parent Effectiveness Service (PES) Program Act to help empower parents and guardians on keeping their children safe. Under the proposed measure, the PES will be established in every city and municipality to build on the capacity of parents and parent substitutes in responding to their parental duties and responsibilities. The program also aims to protect and promote children’s rights, foster positive early childhood development, and advance children’s educational progress.
In another measure Senate Bill No. 1794, Gatchalian seeks to make the internet safer for kids by imposing responsibilities to internet service providers (ISPs), which include blocking any form of access to child pornography.