The internet is here to stay, and there’s no stopping kids from creating an online presence. This should not be a cause for panic, though.
That’s okay, said Gigo Alampay, lawyer, author and executive director of the Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (Canvas). The internet is an essential tool that kids need to get ahead in life. But the real question should be, are your kids smart enough to know how to discern and protect themselves from fake news?
“Are they revealing too much about themselves—where they go, what school they attend, where they live? The fact is, they could be talking to strangers and trusting strangers without realizing that that might be dangerous,” Alampay told Inquirer Lifestyle.
Canvas, an art nonprofit and publisher of children’s books, has released two books that aim to empower children and teens as they navigate the web.
“Safe Space: A Kid’s Guide to Data Privacy,” for ages 6 to 12, is an activity book that introduces the concept of personal data to children and how to protect themselves.
“#YouThink: Fight Fake News” is a magazine-style book designed to appeal to ages 12 to 18, arming them with information on how to become discerning when it comes to online misinformation.
Unlike parents, Alampay said, the digital-native children are unafraid, so to speak, and are more willing to take risks when surfing, as technology and the internet are integral parts of their lives. Kids explore the internet with ease. They have TikTok, Instagram and other social media accounts, and they don’t think twice before posting.
Children explore more easily, Alampay continued, and might unwittingly give away sensitive information about themselves.
“Safe Space” explains to a child about personal data, why it must be protected and how children have the right to keep personal information private.
Apps and websites can detect the gadgets used, photos in the devices, the times you’re usually online, how long you’re online, who you chat with, your choice of browsers, what and whose stories you watch, how long you stay on each website, how much juice is left on your phone, what photos you “like,” your preferred photo filters, the links you click, your real-time location.
Children need to know what and why personal info is collected, who’s collecting it, and how it will be used. The book teaches them to think twice before sharing their location, to only allow access if the company is transparent about how their information will be used, to be wary of sharing info for online games and taking those endless quizzes. And, more importantly, it reminds them to seek a trusted adult when in doubt.
“Some kids might have a conflict with parents or parents might not be there, so we say talk to a trusted adult—that could be a teacher, a sibling, a relative. [Parents can] also use the book to start meaningful conversations with their children,” he said.
It teaches children how to practice data privacy and the golden rule of sharing so they become responsible. Kids will also find tips on making stronger passwords and creating a safe space for internet surfing, including when innocently playing online games.
Falling for fake news
“#YouThink” teaches about false information and its many forms and why it’s essential the youth know why misinformation is a real concern.
“It’s easy to fall for fake news because some people might think the idea of fake news won’t happen to them because they’re intelligent enough,” he said. “How do you identify fake news?”
The first clue, Alampay said, is if you become overly emotional after reading something. “You might need to look further to make sure na tama ’yung binabasa mo,” he said.
The book explores misleading or out-of-line context, intentionally deceptive news, conspiracy theories, propaganda, biased writing or reporting. There are topics on phishing, filter bubbles, deepfakes, fake photos and why context is crucial to know if the information is accurate. It offers activities where you differentiate fact vs. factual statements vs. opinion.
Contributing writers include Dr. Classira David, Dr. Edsel Salvana, Dr. Reina Reyes, lawyer Luie Guia, Dr. Jacklyn Cleofas on topics such as politics, health, science, and media.
“It’s not enough for children to learn to read. They have to learn to love books, and then they’ll keep reading,” Alampay said. —CONTRIBUTED
“Safe Space: A Kid’s Guide to Data Privacy” and “#YouThink: Fight Fake News” are sold at P300 each at lookingforjuan.com. Canvas matches every sale with a donation of two books to children in poor communities. Book donations are distributed through Canvas’ “One Million Books for One Million Filipino Children” campaign. More than 350,000 books have already been donated to date.