The nature of cyberbullying—from its motivations to its execution and potential for virality—makes it such an “increasingly disturbing phenomenon,” as youth digital advocates from Cebu described it.
A group of psychologists, experts and advocates of online safety spelled out the many types and threats of cyberbullying at a simultaneous session during the Ako Para Sa Bata 2015: Cyberprotection of Children conference held at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu on December 1 and 2, 2015.
Resources for schools and parents on cyber safety
Child Protection Officer Leah Galgo shared that the Department of Education has been distributing circulars and starting initiatives on cyber safety as part of its commitment to protect and teach children. DepEd also provides guidelines for the installation and usage of Internet in public schools and administrative offices.
Galgo mentioned the importance of resources for cyber-ethics and cyber safety specific to parents, educators and students or the youth, citing B4USurf.org as a good example of comprehensive and appropriate content. She said that DepEd prevention programs are designed to lessen the cases of bullying and instill in students the values of respect and discipline.
School-wide anti-bullying policies include the practice of positive and non-violent discipline, information dissemination and capacity building among educators and parents, and referral services to experts in counselling children. Galgo said that all public and private schools must have a Child Protection Committee, composed by the principal, guidance counselor, and a representative from parents, the barangay council, and the students. The CPC turns into an anti-bullying committee if the case calls for it, and will be responsible for reporting and monitoring such incidences.
DepEd also partners with NGOs like Stairway Foundation in conducting training as the agency distributes learning modules and activity guides to teach young people how to stay safe and where to get help.
“This means that we don’t really discourage our students not to go online. It’s not bad. As Sonnie said earlier, it can be a double-edged sword; it depends on how you use it. We don’t want to create fear among our students, but mostly teaching them on how to self-regulate so they are protected from being victims of online child abuse.”
Court of Appeals Associate Justice Marilyn Lagura-Yap served as reactor to the session, sharing some areas in the existing legal framework relevant to bullying that need to be re-evaluated. She said that while Republic Act 10627 (Anti-Bullying Act of 2013) may not be sufficient in addressing the sanctions deemed appropriate for cyberbullying, she recognizes that “if both victim and perpetrator are minors, the adversarial environment of the courtroom becomes a formidable block to provide relief to the former and learning experience and reformation to the latter.”
“There is then a need for teachers and the family to band together and be active collaborators in recognizing behavioral changes in students who bully and are bullied,” she said. “Mandatory counseling has to take place in the home first, next the school, and then both.”
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