“Is the social media regulation and protection act really going to work?” said a fellow mom when I shared with her the news about this house bill filed by Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez. I have read and heard many resolutions about how we can smarten up social media regulations myself, and I can’t even abide by them sometimes. So, what makes this stand out? Here’s what we know so far, and let’s read up on what parents have to say about this bill as well.
First and foremost
The number of social media accounts in the Philippines has grown in the last two years. Highlighting during the pandemic since most of us were at home working or studying. This 360-degree turn changed the way we lived, learned, and communicated. In a report done by Statics.com, there are about 76 million Facebook users (as of February 2022) and an average of 10.27 hours accessing the internet on various devices during the third quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, 4.06 hours were spent using social media on average daily. The report also indicated that most users are aged 18 years old and up. However, the Common Sense Media census report shared in 2016 and also mentioned by a CNN writer, Jacqueline Howard, stated that some social media accounts were created by the age of 12 years old. The survey was answered by parents, and it showed that “80% of all teenagers (ages 13-18) in the group had their own social media account, compared with 23% of all tweens (ages 8-12).”
I believe the latter is true. In the Philippines, I see a lot of minor social media account holders. While most social media accounts have strict regulations, they could easily be manipulated. Even though these accounts were reported with parents’ consent, they are still juvenile. As we know, cybercrimes like cyberbullying, impersonation, cyber teasing, and more are rampant, so the next question would be, “how do we safe proof our children from these events?”
House Bill 543: Social Media Regulation and Protection Act, What We Know So Far
A father to 3 children himself, Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez filed a house bill that would presumably help alleviate the worst conundrum of most parents; cybercrimes like stalking, defamation, impersonation, and more.
In the proposed bill, Rep. Fernandez would like the following points compulsory for social media outlets:
- Spruce up the age requirement policy.
- Set limitations on the use of their platforms.
- Strict implementation of parental consent.
Rep. Fernandez would like account holders ages 13 years old and below to be restricted from all social media platforms. In addition, the bill seeks users to limit their screen time to 30 minutes per day and forbids social media companies from collecting personal as well as location information WITHOUT parental consent. Furthermore, any information from users aged 13 to 17 years old could not be obtained without the user’s consent.
The House Bill also requires social media companies to easily track the users and how much time they spend on their platform. Additionally, Fernandez’s proposal includes automatically limiting their time to 30 minutes a day. However, users could change these limitations on a weekly basis.
Evidently, this bill also mandates the Department of Health to cultivate a relevant study on the pros and cons of technology and irresponsible social media usage that could eventually lead to addiction and other psychological issues.
What Other Parents Are Saying
While this bill sounds interesting and ambitious, there are parents that are hopeful this bill is the answer to the never-ending argument about whether or not technological advancements are dreadful or blissful blessings.
In fact, Krsytine Nombres, a mom to a teenage daughter, thinks that this law might be one of those ineffective laws since educating our children must start with us, parents. “No need to create a law for this. Para sa akin, paano implementation? Paano mo malalaman if susunod? (For me, how do you implement that? How would you know it’s being diligently done?) Thats the prob sa Pinas. We have so many laws na di naman na i-implement. I think it boils down to proper education sa bahay; campaign, etc. And yan nga nasa parent talaga, so we have to educate the parents of the harm ng gadget and social media,” she said.
A father to three sons, 11, 12, and 13 years old, who chooses his name to be disclosed, shared that it would be really hard for companies to implement these restrictions. “When the pandemic started, my children had to create their Facebook profiles since their school’s form of communication was via Messenger.” Further, this dad also shared that he got annoyed by receiving all school-related notifications on Messenger. That’s why he decided to create social media accounts for his children. “Even though I gave consent, the regulations or restrictions are so easy to manipulate talaga. Iibahin lang ang year ng birthdate, eh okay na! (You just have to change their birthday year, and you’re done!)
An interesting answer from digital nomads, Aaron and Karen, working with 12 year-old-son and 13 year-old-daughter. Husband and wife tandem, who both work for a tech company, said that they feel it is about time for their children to be exposed to these kinds of technological advancements. “For us, this law will just be a waste of time. You will only be fooling yourself. As a mom, it is my duty to nurture them and protect them at all times. As for my husband, his role is to instill values by properly disciplining them. Eh, we don’t want our children to grow up duwag naman, so dapat matuto silang maging matapang. Eto na ang bagong mundo eh, ito na ang generation nila, and we, parents, cannot avoid it anymore. We just have to be more careful, more diligent, and more more patience, talaga.” (We don’t want our children to grow up scared of reality. This is the world we live in, this is their generation.)
“While some schools and universities used technologies like Google Meet, Zoom, VSmart, and Quipper, to name a few, others just utilized free apps such as Facebook Messenger as their communication channel. Like in our case, we used VSmart but also communicated via Messenger,” says a mom who has 7 years old son and 12 years old daughter. However, she finds this law an “answer to her prayers.” “Parang okay din ito eh. We need help talaga from the government. Yes, we can do our part as parents, pero need din ng government to act.”
Lastly, an author of Alpabeto ng Kalikasan and a mom to Liam, 10 years old, said that “kids below 18 aren’t even allowed to HAVE social media.” Which I totally agree with. Meta, formerly Facebook, is vocal about this regulation. When you create an account, it is visibly written that an account holder must be 18 years old and above.
All parents who shared their two cents about this house bill are all relevant and acceptable. There is no right or wrong in parenting. Each parenting style is unique. As a mom of four children, my parenting hacks or ways work for me but will never work for other parents.
To me, parenting is hard, especially in this generation. Back in the day, our parents would just get mad from excessively playing outside, but now, our enemies are invincible. And ultimately, we get mad because we think our children waste their time by being online. While I am one of those parents who gave consent to my kids to create social media accounts, I must ensure they are safe on and offline. As my husband said, “we just have to build and strengthen their self-esteem.” We cannot stop them from being tech-savvy. One of the misconceptions that people have about technology is the technology itself. A quiet revolution is here. We must be digitally savvy to get the most out of technology. So, for the question, is this mandate going to work? I hope so.