DICT exec shares digital parenting tip: Be your kid’s first Facebook friend

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Genalyn B. Macalinao, planning officer of the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) CyberSecurity Bureau, told parents in a recent conference that if their teenage kid decides to open a Facebook account, they should be his first friend. Doing so is one of the seven steps to good digital parenting.

Genalyn B. Macalinao, planning officer of the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) CyberSecurity Bureau

The DICT National Digital Parenting Conference was held at Novotel Manila in Quezon City on August 25. Macalinao was one of the resource speakers.

As Facebook friends or Twitter followers, parents should not stalk their kids or leave daily comments, said the DICT officer. It is enough that they get to know who their other social media friends are, what they post, what they’re looking at, their interests, and others.

Digital parenting however involves other steps, foremost of which is to always talk with their kids.

Another step is to educate themselves about the Internet and social media via Google among others.

Using parental controls is the third step. Major operating systems, search engines, cellphone providers, and gaming platforms provide free or inexpensive parental controls. As the kids mature, parents should begin using monitoring tools involving time limits.

Digital parenting is also about setting rules and sanctions such as prohibiting gadgets on the dinner table or “surrendering” their phones to their parents before they sleep. Parents should be strict and consistent in enforcing these rules so the kids will take them seriously.

Parents should also explore, share, and celebrate with their children by doing things together online like playing games, watching videos, and sharing photos.

Lastly, parents should be good digital role models. “Kids will not hear our talk if they don’t see it in our walk,” Macalinao explained. “If they see us interested in books, they will take an interest in reading as well. If they see us always on our phones, they’ll do the same.”

Emmanuel R. Manansala, vice president of The World Needs A Father Philippines and wife Lisa also gave additional suggestions, such as giving kids an analog phone instead of a smartphone, prohibiting gadgets while they study, and designating a common area in the home where they can use their devices so that parents can easily monitor them.

According to studies, social media use by Filipinos averages at four hours daily while Internet use is at nine hours and 30 minutes.

Depression and suicide have risen among American adolescents and a San Diego State University research published in 2017 indicated that more social media screen time may have had a hand in this.

Depression rate in the Philippines is the highest in Southeast Asia, studies by the World Health Organization and Department of Health revealed. Among 15 to 17-year-olds in the country, 17% have already considered suicide.

“We are designed to have face to face interaction,” said Manansala. When people listen to each other, hug each other, or look into each other’s eyes, their bodies release a chemical in the brain. Called oxytocin, this chemical makes people feel better. Therefore, prolonged screen time prevents the release of oxytocin. This is the reason why people become more depressed, explained Manansala.

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