Be Internet Awesome

Principal Aspect by Mr. Roderick R. Mendiola, Principal II – CMSHS

THE ADVENT of the internet in the early 80s sparked a breakthrough in digital technology and introduced a new mode of communicating with people from any point in the world without the need of a postman, practically cutting out the waiting time for the arrival of a message. More than a decade after, it became the next big thing, now woven into the fabric of our global, national, and local society, forming part and parcel of our existence.

But while it facilitates communication, speeds up our daily tasks, or even guides our tours and travels nowadays, it also poses danger to those who are not wary of the potential harm that others deliberately unleash upon its credulous users to inspire confusion, misinformation, vilifications, among many worse others.  

Safety is not solely confined to that feeling of security, protection, or being free from risks in a physical world. The virtual environment has also become a dark place for some especially the young ones that safety must accompany online users wherever they embark on the massive, infinite universe that cyberspace is. Learning institutions, educational organizations, and technology companies specializing in internet-related services and products scaled up their social responsibility efforts to hasten and magnify the promotion of appropriate and intelligent use of the internet.

A survey commissioned by Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) through the Digital Kids Asia-Pacific project revealed that on average Filipino 15-year-olds proved knowledgeable about personal data and privacy and more than adequate in digital safety and resilience competency, but may need to improve their understanding of their rights in the digital realm, which is especially critical given the increasing incidence of cyberbullying and other online misbehaviors in social media.

The same study disclosed that forty percent (40%) of students access the Web and use digital devices for 1–2 hours for schoolwork (32%), personal purposes (37%), leisure (31%), and socializing with friends (33%). More, however, access the Web at least three hours each day.

The large proportion of Filipino students employing the internet other than for educational purposes points to the need for large-scale advocacy that protects the well-being and privacy of individuals in the online world and learning institutions across the globe introduced regulations and policies to ensure digital safety for learners.

The Department of Education (DepEd) as an oversight agency tasked to develop the skills, talents, and attitudes of Filipino learners through its learning institutions on the ground enhances its curriculum by putting together relevant competencies attuned to the needs of learners in the 21st century. Aside from the essential skills offerings that DepEd’s K to 12 frameworks is grounded upon – learning and innovation skills, information, media and technology skills, and life and career skills – it is endeavoring to introduce and implement worthwhile programs to ensure that learners are properly trained on the use of the internet, deeply aware of the dynamics of social media and skillfully able to manage internet-related issues and challenges of the present times. To this end, an initiative such as Be Internet Awesome (BIA) program was born to strengthen our learner’s digital safety and likewise citizenship, making them able to understand among many others the norms, rules, and safety concerns that come with sharing information digitally.

Anchored on the five pillars of digital safety – smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave – the BIA is designed to teach students to become safe and fearless explorers of the online world. Smart, because it instills in the learners the importance of thoughtful sharing of information with others; alert because it helps learners discern between what is real and what is not in the digital world; strong, because it equips learners with ways to safeguard valuable information to enhance personal privacy and security; kind because it empowers learners to use the internet as a platform to spread positivity and create positive impact for others; brave, because it develops in the learners a sense of openness by sharing their feelings at home with their parents or an authority figure or even with their classmates at school.

A product of a partnership between DepEd and Google, the program is primarily focused on having learners achieve the learning objectives based on the identified pillars. The City of Mandaluyong Science High School (CMSHS) has pilot tested the BIA before the start of SY 2021-2022 with around sixty (60) students participating in the activity. The program received positive feedback from the volunteers, and research thereupon was undertaken for possible expansion of its implementation to all grade levels and for refinement of instructional delivery to the learners.

In the expanding universe of cyberspace where danger unleashed is just a click away, it should be a primordial concern for all academic institutions to keep their learners away from being sucked into the black hole of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation, and drum into the young minds the importance of cybersafety – for to survive in this digital age is for them not just to be awesome, but internet awesome!

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