Online Safety for Children: Sharing important resources for teachers, carers and parents

Dear friends of Buhay Makulay,

I hope you are all keeping well during this season. You, our partners and volunteers, and the thousands of dear children from our Children’s Fairs, have been on my mind in these past weeks. I am writing you from London in good health, where the days have been sunny and bright, despite the uphill battle against Covid-19. How are you? 
The season of quarantine and staying at home can be a challenge for many today, especially children. There is evidence for how hard it can be for children to navigate and cope during this season. Children are challenged with anxiety, fear, and many questions about what is going on. In addition, the pressures from life at home and life online can weigh heavy, and children may not always know how to ask for help or support. A help line from the UK has published a sample of what they are hearing from children about coronavirus – it includes worry about their family and their health, growing anxiety, experiences of bullying online, and sadly, even the surfacing of suicidal thoughts. (You can read the report from Childline here).
It is as important as ever to reach out to the children in our communities today. We all have a child or young person in our circle of influence. As we engage with children during the global pandemic and quarantine, here are three initiatives we can look into:
1 –  Stay connected with the children you care for. Reach out. 
It is incredible how parents, teachers and carers around the world are showing up for children, getting creative with teaching, supporting and connecting, so as not to compromise guidelines for physical distancing and safety.
Knowing you, our incredible Buhay Makulay partners and volunteers, I can imagine how you are exploring and pursuing every possible way to be there for the children in your life. Thank you!
A distressing reality for Filipino children is the risk they face of violence, even in their homes and increasingly now, online. As parents, teachers and carers, we are part of a support network for children and we can help by being present, equipped and vigilant on their behalf.
“Eighty per cent of Filipino children have experienced some form of violence at home, in school, in their community and online.” 2015 National Baseline Survey on Violence Against Children in the Philippines, UNICEF
The home is not always a bright and embracing place for all children. If you can shine a bit of light into a child’s day, in a way that is safe and that still follows government guidelines and health precautions, it could mean the world to them.
2 – Be an advocate for safety for children, especially online safety. 

Online safety begins at home.
 Many adults may not be prepared or equipped to help children navigate the online world.
If you are a parent and care for children at home, here are some resources: This website has advice on the first steps to take with children at home, such as making a family agreement, having a conversation about online safety, and setting up or reviewing parental controls on all devices and programs. Please share this with parents.
If you are a parent, teacher or work with children and young people, visit: This webpage helps adults, teachers and professionals learn more about some of the hot topics, key risks, and advice, regarding young people and the internet. It covers topics such as cyberbullying, social media, and gaming. It also covers more sensitive topics such as online grooming, sexting, and online sexual harassment.
These may feel like heavy topics to be learning about, but in order to be in a position to help support children facing challenges online today, we must also be educated and prepared ourselves.
3 – Maintain the channels that help children reach out to you.
Ensure that there are practices (and policies, if you are a professional or represent an organization) that put a child’s wellbeing and protection at the center. 
It is also important that we remain models for good behaviour, and that we signal good practices for children, their parents, and even our peers. We must be able to keep our doors open for children to reach out to us for support. However, be mindful that we do this in a way that still puts the child’s wellbeing and rights at the center.
Let us review our engagement and communications practices with children and ensure that we are using appropriate language, the appropriate channels, and including parents or guardians in the process. Make sure that we have guidelines in place that ensure that we are helping children feel and stay safe online.
If you work within an organization, even if you don’t work directly with children, it would also be good to check if child protection policies and practices are in place.

Here are some key resources to start with, from the NSPCC (The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the UK):

(*All the links in this email are from UK-based organizations for children, as I have been doing my research on child protection in the UK. I hope to cover more Philippines-based resources in my next email. If you have other resources that you would like to share with others, particularly resources that relate to the Filipino context and support for children in the Philippines, please respond to this email.)  

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