Dealing with Online Safety and Digital Parenting

Written by Len Amadora

Just recently, Netflix, the world's leading streaming entertainment service, together with Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and the Philippines' Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) have hosted a virtual event titled, "Good Digital Parenting In an Open Internet".  The event addressed pressing parenting issues related to child safety within the digital landscape.  True to what FMA Executive Director, Liza S. Garcia had said during the introduction, "The event is very timely as parents try their best to keep up with their children and guide them at the same time in whatever they do",  and that includes technology.  The present pandemic has indeed brought a lot of changes and as added by Ms. Garcia, "Covid-19 highlighted the importance of technology and being connected."

The virtual event zeroed in on issues such as balance on work and parenting, cyber security, parental controls - issues that have been highlighted by the present pandemic.  The virtual seminar's keynote speaker was FOSI Founder and CEO Stephen Balkam and panelists were experts from different sectors namely Shanta Arul, Strategy and Development from Netflix, Shiela Estabillo, a Cyber Safe spaces Project Manager from Plan International Philippines and Rina Siongco, Director at Globe Telecom. Aside from sharing experiences, each gave insights and tips on digital parenting. 

So, how do we keep our children safe online?  In his keynote speech, FOSI Founder and CEO Stephen Balkam discussed the importance of the 3Ps - Policy, Practice and Parenting - to keep children safe online.  Policy is having good laws, legislation and regulations based on facts.  Practice, on the other hand, involves the ways companies provide tools and rules to keep kids and their parents digitally protected. This would involve parental controls, online safety tools and privacy settings.  Stephen likewise added the importance of moderation rules.  It should be made clear what is allowed and not allowed in the platform. After gathering all the information, tips and rules on effective digital parenting can be formulated.  Stephen stressed the importance of a multi-faceted approach from the different sectors of the society (from the government, law enforcement down to the parents and kids) and the need to create a Culture of Responsibility.  

During the event, tips to good digital parenting were shared and these are:  

1. Parents should talk with their kids.  Stephen emphasized a calm, open and direct conversation as often as possible. 

2. Parents should educate themselves.  It is important that parents search online what they do not understand and to try out the games, sites or apps that their kids are using. It is important that they keep up and be familiar with technology. 

3.  Use parental controls.  Parents should always check their children's privacy settings especially on social media and regularly monitor their use and screen time.  

4. Set ground rules and enforce consequences.  

5. Parents should "friend and follow" their kids on social media; but remember, parents should not stalk their kids. 

6. Parents should go online with their kids and explore their digital world together.  Learn from each other. 

7.  Lastly, parents should be a good digital role model. 

Ms. Shanta Arul, Netflix Strategy and Development, Asia shared how Netflix assures subscribers of experience that they are comfortable with.  Netflix is aware of the different parenting styles and assures families of content that is appropriate for them. Netflix has provided parents tools to help them manage their child's experience.  Ms. Shanta added, "We know many families love Netflix which is why we continue to have no ads on our service, and we are always continuing to strengthen our parental controls based on member feedback.  We understand choice and control are important for our members, especially parents and hope these additional controls will help parents make informed choices on what their families watch."