By Bronte H. Lacsamana
Be Internet Awesome, Google’s free program designed to teach children the fundamentals of digital citizenship and online safety, was launched in the Philippines in an online event on Tuesday.
“As students increase (their) reliance on (the) internet, we have to educate them about digital responsibility inside and outside classroom,” said Leonor M. Briones, secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd), at the launch.
The curriculum focuses on five pillars: being smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave online. These serve as the basis for teaching materials and resources that Google developed to help teachers and parents convey digital literacy concepts more easily to children.
The DepEd’s role was to localize these to the Filipino setting. In August, the program was piloted in over 20 schools in Antipolo, Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasig, and Nueva Ecija.
Around 2,014 students in grades 4 to 8 praised the curriculum, rating it 90-94% and saying it helped them learn internet safety tips that are useful in the digital age.
“Coming from the success of the pilot run, I believe this program holds great potential to educate more children,” Ms. Briones said. “In the future, we can integrate [it] into the national curriculum so it can be taught in the classroom.”
Bernadette Nacario, country director of Google Philippines, added that the internet being a crucial part of people’s everyday lives meant it could cause harm if people are not careful.
“We are launching this to help raise the next generation of netizens who are smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave on the internet,” she said.
Citing a 2020 study by the Digital Intelligence (DQ) Institute, Google Philippines’ marketing head Gabriel “Gabby” Roxas pointed out that the Philippines is one of the most challenged countries when it comes to child online safety, with the country ranking 4th to last out of 30 countries in terms of safety from cyber risks for kids.
“Because of hybrid classes, children are forced to spend more time online,” he explained. “Filipino kids are coming online much earlier because of the pandemic. In 2020, even six-year-old kids are coming online for the first time.”
With Be Internet Awesome, children ages 8 to 12 can learn to become confident explorers of the online world, whether it’s from educators’ slides and localized lesson plans or from family reminders instituted by parents at home, he added.
For parents in particular, the key to online safety is being approachable, according to psychologist and guidance counselor Dr. Michelle S. Alignay.
“We should be the ‘askable’ digital parents because we are the adults. If there’s any threat or risk, we should be available to them,” she said, on the level of involvement needed. “We should also be evolved parents. We need to grow digitally with them.”
Google’s curriculum is one way to be updated with the trends and risks that children could be exposed to on the internet, but another is to just talk to them and find out what they consume and do online in their free time outside of online classes, added Dr. Alignay.
Mr. Roxas agreed, specifying behaviors to teach that reflect the five pillars: refraining from oversharing (smart), determining what is fake and real (alert), creating and securing good passwords (strong), spreading positivity and blocking inappropriate behavior (kind), and speaking up when they notice something wrong (brave).
“More and more, the internet is going to be an essential part of kids’ education. It matters that it’s being taught in school but hopefully it’s something that can really be discussed at home,” he said.
Be Internet Awesome’s website in the Philippines is also available in Filipino.