DepEd’s cyber safety modules ‘laudable, albeit long overdue’

Commission on Human Rights (CHR)

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) supported the “laudable, albeit long overdue,” initiative by the Department of Education (DepEd) in adding cyber safety in the online learning modules to guide children against the dangers of improper internet usage, bullying, and content sharing.

The cyber safety modules in three courses aim to help children learn the basics on internet safety, and they are considered as "educational safety nets" that would protect the Filipino youth from all forms of online abuse and exploitation, the CHR said.

It lamented the sharp increase in online sexual exploitation and abuse of children (OSAEC) during the pandemic, with the Department of Justice (DOJ) reporting that there was a 264.6 percent increase in OSAEC cases from May 2019 to March 2020.

The country's Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) had received 1.2 million tips on alleged OSAEC activities in 2020 alone, it said.

CHR Spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia has consistently called for greater government action for the protection of children.

With more children on virtual platforms, De Guia said it is crucial for the government to address increased vulnerabilities in online exploitation and cyberbullying, “and the cyber safety modules are a good way to address these.”

"We are hopeful that knowledge learned from these modules would translate to more children avoiding harmful internet interactions and a decrease in OSAEC cases," she said.

At the same time, De Guia said the CHR presses for the passage of House Bill No. 10703 or the “Anti-Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children."

HB 10703 provides strengthened protection for children against OSAEC-related crimes by requiring internet intermediaries and other internet or payment service providers to take down or remove websites that stream illegal content, she said.

De Guia pointed out: "By increasing penalties of those found guilty, the legislative measure also intends to deter the others from the commission of crimes. The passage of this bill shall demonstrate the resolve of the present administration to stamp out child abuse and make online spaces a safe space for children."

As the country’s Gender and Children’s Ombud charged to monitor government actions upholding gender and children’s rights, the CHR called for "urgent Executive action" for the passage of the bill into law, which would protect the Filipino youth against abuse, she stressed.