“It is this group of young people who are considered as the most valuable resource of the country,” shared Secretary Rolando Bautista of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), officially opening the plenary session for the first day of the Ako Para Sa Bata 2019 conference. She enumerated the many problems facing teenagers these days and encouraged everyone to assist them by “focusing on their strengths, providing a positive environment, and encouraging their health activities.”
The first speaker, Mary Cajayon-Uy, Executive Director of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), tackled the gains and achievements of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in the Philippines. She started off by providing the audience with a brief background of the CRC. She highlighted that under the CRC, children are able to participate and have their views considered in matters affecting them. The Philippines, she reminded, was an early signatory to this and was the 31st state to ratify, submitting periodic reports to the UN Committee on Child Rights.
Cajayon-Uy explained that the CWC has helped the country implement programs through technical support and research. In a 2015 study, they found that children are victimized not only in school, but even at their homes. “Imbis na sa bahay nakakatamasa ng proteksyon [ang mga bata], we found out na sa bahay pa nangyayari ang violence,” she explained.
Following through with the plenary was the very spirited Fr. Fidel Orendain, President and Dean of Don Bosco Technical College of Cebu. His talk, titled “Wired Adolescence: Perceptions, Risks, and Opportunities,” explored the effects of technology upon the youth and how they can be helped when needed.
“Every new generation creates its own language, to the annoyance of the older,” he opened. “Why should we discuss the technology that surrounds them, because we care for young people.” He explained that technology is amoral: it is how it is used or abused that really makes the difference.
He shared a few reminders to help the audience bridge the gap when trying to understand the youth of today. He told them about the importance of space, to be digitally literate, and to adjust to their realities. He also reiterated that reminders should not be threats. He closed by saying: “let us challenge the changes, not change the challenges.”
“Adolescence is a pivotal period of development. In fact, there is no other moment with more multiple and simultaneous changes,” shared the last speaker, Liane Alampay, a Professor from the Department of Psychology of Ateneo de Manila University. Her talk, “Teen Brain Under Construction: Implications in Health and Law,” explored the growing pains of adolescent brain development and how it affects the person’s relationships.
Adulthood is the time maturity for brain development. Therefore, compared to adults, adolescents are less likely to use reason in the heat of passion, the spur of the moment, or in unfamiliar situations. While risk taking differs across cultural contexts, in the Philippines, the peak age is at 16-22 years old.
Societal pressures also affect an adolescent’s development, Alampay explained. She cited a study done by Gene Brody and stated that greater exposure to poverty in adolescents is associated with less optimum functionality in areas of the brain associated with executive functions. She then left advice for the audience as she ended her session: “Positive family relationships can protect the adolescent brain from harmful environments.”
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