This is Part 1 of a two-part feature. Read Part 2 here.
The second plenary session of Day Two of the Ako Para Sa Bata: Cyberprotection of Children conference was conducted by Fr. Fidel Orendain, SDB, and his topic was “Challenges of Cyberculture on Education and on the Filipino Family.”
Fr. Orendain opened with a look at the trends that have evolved over the years with regard to what cyberculture is, as being a trend watcher is critical for understanding those selfsame trends. New ideologies, movements and technologies are important to monitor, especially when affecting faith, education and youth.
In the 1970s, cyberculture was the exclusive domain of a handful of technology experts. By the 1990s, however, ICTs shifted to entertainment, research, culture, business and social relations: a development that has become even truer today. Cyberculture has become very personal to everyone and is lived online, while still maintaining a direct influence on the world of direct interaction.
What exactly is cyberculture, though? On its face it is a collection of cultures and cultural products facilitated by information and communication technology (ICT): computers, mobile devices and the like that have created a way of life that exists entirely on a technological level. In terms of the family unit, there have dramatic shifts brought about by cyberculture on family interaction: a growing complexity that carries over into the educational aspect for young people.
The home and the school are able to gain much from new technologies, Fr. Orendain said, but they are also inadequate for dealing with them. He explained that there are three major assumptions that we need to be aware of today: new technologies are causing rapid transformation everywhere; those technologies are greatly affecting the growth of young people; and traditional institutions are struggling to be more proactive in managing them.
At its heart, Fr. Orendain pointed out, ICT is about transformation. ICT contributes significantly to a society’s growth and innovation, he posited, but its benefits are not spread evenly because of the different socioeconomic circumstances present in that society.
As such, the benefits of ICT do not always outweigh the potential negative effects, even as ICT continues revising established social roles and norms. What cannot be disputed is that ICT has introduced dramatic changes, and it has become dominant and pervasive worldwide. The growth and diffusion of ICT has happened with astounding speed, and so we live in a time of technological convergence.
Cellphones have dramatically changed a majority of Filipinos, Fr. Orendain stated as an example: “Filipino society would rather lose their personal necessities such as soap and shampoo rather than lose internet access and their cellphones.”
Fr. Orendain’s presentation explored a number of generational comparisons first in terms of technology usage, and then later the specific effects of ICT on youth transformation. Because of ICT, he explained, there are a number of concerning things that have happened for young people: the concept of the family has become fragmented, there is quick and easy access to massive information and knowledge, there is similarly more accessible knowledge of and exposure to violence and sexuality, and neutral moral and religious values are more widespread.
Similar to what Dr. Bernadette Madrid did in her prior plenary session, Fr. Orendain underscored the reasons for why we should stay abreast of ICT. We need to do this because we care for young people, he said, and we are also affected by ICT regardless of how aware we are of it.
Even though new things may confuse us, it is our responsibility to stay aware so that we don’t get left behind. The study of ICT is always relevant because it controls the quality and quantity of communication, ergo the nature of relationships as well. This applies not just between older generations and young people, but also among young people and their peers.
The use of ICT among young people continues to evolve even as it is pervasive. Just as with adults, children’s daily routines and structures today revolve around the use of ICT. There are three main uses for the Internet: communication, entertainment and information. There is, however, a relatively low level of education-specific use.
The noteworthy downsides to how pervasive the Internet has become can be tracked across all sorts of studies and surveys. There is reduced face-to-face human contact and increasing insecurity, on top of the diminishing familial bonds and a general diminishing of solidarity with people. As people spend more time in front of their screens, they also lead less physically active lives. Because of social networking sites there is a net loss of privacy and a degeneration of manners, not to mention the strong addiction to the use of technology itself to remain connected to the Internet.
To illustrate the concepts that Fr. Orendain was talking about, he cited data from the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS) study by the Demographic Research and Development Foundation, Inc., which ran its fourth iteration in 2013.
According to YAFS4, six in 10 young people are regular Internet users. Four in 10 maintain an active social networking site presence, and eight in 10 have mobile phones. In terms of how they build relationships, 33% of young people have friends whom they only met online, while 25% have friends whom they met through text and have not seen personally.
This is Part 1 of a two-part feature. Read Part 2 here.
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