By Denise A. Valdez

THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is moving to strengthen its stance on prohibiting the use of social media in disseminating school work to students, as it kick-started public consultations on a draft policy Monday.

The agency called stakeholders for a consultation at the DICT office in Quezon City on Monday, where it discussed the draft department order that seeks to improve child protection policies in the Philippines.

The draft policy said, “Academic institutions shall cease the use of social media in the dissemination of school home works, projects and other school mandated requirements. The academic institution must prescribe the use of an official online platform developed specifically for the purpose of information dissemination among its students.”

It also sought mobile operators, internet service providers, content providers, online retailers, application developers and social media sites to work together in coming up with a system and assigning a point of contact to improve the implementation of existing policies such as Republic Act No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.

Stakeholders from various government agencies, non-government organizations, telecommunications firms and the academe participated in the consultation.

Genalyn B. Macalinao, information technology officer at the DICT Cybersecurity Bureau who presided the meeting, noted that the only new provision in the proposed policy is the involvement of the academe in ensuring child online protection.

“Most of the provisions are just a reiteration…of existing policies on child online protection. Meron lang isang bagong (There’s just one new) provision which is involving the academe,” she said.

Ms. Macalinao noted the DICT is not trying to stop students from using social media, but rather to reduce their exposure to it by prohibiting the use of the platform for the dissemination of school work.

“We thought of drafting a circular that will sort of (reduce) the exposure ng mga kabataan sa [of the youth to] social media, hindi sa [not to] technology. DICT will never be anti-technology. We advocate for a digital economy… However, we also see the threats that are accompanied by the advancement of digital economy,” she said.

“It’s not meant to stop the use of social media. Our children will always be on social media. Day and night they will be there. Why add more to that exposure by mandating it?,” she added.

But after a stakeholder noted how children sometimes highlight the helpfulness of social media for school-related activities, the DICT said it will consider conducting a consultation with students on the policy as well.

“(Ms. Macalinao) will convene, and we will invite two to three from each school, so that we can also hear their side,” DICT Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Allan S. Cabanlong, who briefly dropped by the event, said.

He also noted how the DICT does not want to limit children’s use of technology, but rather reinforce the responsible use of technology.

“We would not limit. Even the child…hindi namin nili-limit ‘yung mga bata na gumamit ng social media (We are not limiting children’s use of social media), but with the guidance of the parents,” Mr. Cabanlong said, noting how the draft policy only covers the dissemination of school work and not the use of social media for other opportunities such as research.

After the meeting on Monday, the DICT is scheduled to hold two more consultations with stakeholders in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. Ms. Macalinao said the DICT is targeting to release the department order before the year ends.