#UsapTayo x Better Today Collaboration
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February 26, 2022
Writer: Kat Mallari (Better Today)
Editor: Richardson Mojica (#MentalHealthPH)
Creatives: Zai Melchor (Better Today)
Tweet Chat Moderators: Tobey Fhar Isaac Calayo, Marc John Paul Agubaya, Christine Joy Salvacruz, Allyssa Jane Fincale, Patricia Mckenzie Sevilla, Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio (#MentalHealthPH)
Twitter Spaces Moderators: Roy Dahildahil, Richardson Mojica (#MentalHealthPH)
Special Guests: Dr. Jake Lester Villanueva (#MentalHealthPH), SK Christine Dizon (SK Tarlac), SK Genise Delos Reyes (SK Tarlac), SK Cynth Nietes (SK Butuan), and SK Levy Lloyd Orcales (SK Baguio)
Documentation: Ian Stephen Velez (#MentalHealthPH)
As the world transitions in the digital space, the role of the Internet becomes more relevant. There are different ways in which the Internet becomes a safe space for people, while still practicing caution in the potential risks that the digital world may cause its users.
Internet as a double-edged sword
The Internet has the ability to provide opportunities for many people. The Internet can become a powerful tool for communication, information, education, and awareness.
In his recent study, Mesfin Awoke Bekalu (2019), a research scientist in the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, described the association of social media use with social well-being and positive mental health. Bekalu et al. (2019) shared that the users’ emotional connections to social media use and the effects associated with such connections have an impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. For Bekalu et al. (2019), social media has the capacity to provide people with a platform that “overcomes barriers of distance and time, allowing them to connect and reconnect with others and thereby expand and strengthen their in-person networks and interactions”.
Aside from enabling individuals to strengthen their connections online, the Internet also becomes an important platform for education, equality, and inclusivity. Joyce Dogniez of Internet Safety shared the importance of Internet connectivity in the path towards sustainability. According to Dogniez (2019), “The Internet, especially, has become a critical enabler of social and economic change, transforming how government, business, and citizens interact and offering new ways of addressing development challenges. It has also transformed education by creating a new culture of learning and accessing information.” Dogniez also mentioned how the Internet has the power and potential to improve the quality of education. Further, she describes the Internet as something that “opens doorways to a wealth of information, knowledge, and educational resources, increasing opportunities for learning in and beyond the classroom.”
As a safe space, it empowers people to form a community that is anchored on kindness, resilience, and empathy. According to Keda Edwards Pierre, CEO of True II Soul, a safe space should be a network focused on trauma recovery, diversity & inclusion, and resiliency training. Pierre (2020) adds that creating safe spaces is a complicated and tough process, but it is necessary for building and strengthening online groups. This includes “knowing one’s why”, especially in the context of creating online groups or communities; “understanding the language of the audience”, especially as a way to communicate, engage, and reach out to people; “incorporating inclusivity and fostering accessibility” by creating conversations and inclusive spaces for people to interact and share information as well as being mindful of people who wants access to the communities; and lastly, strengthening the idea of “embracing authenticity through real conversations with action-based solutions, [which] allow people to express their emotions, feel heard, heal wounds and move along the path of transformation.”
While the Internet can have powerful and positive impacts, it can also cause harmful effects to individuals. One such case is online scams, which have detrimental effects on one’s mental health. 28-year-old Emma Quinn from the United Kingdom, who is living with bipolar disorder, experienced an online scam by a supposed psychologist who contacted her through Facebook. At that point, Quinn was experiencing her manic state and was in desperate need of help. “At that point, I would have paid anyone any sum of money to make me feel better,” she said (BCC, 2021).
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), a charitable organization founded by Martin Lewis, shared their research, which showed that “people with mental health problems were three times more likely to have been a victim of an online scam than the wider population” (BCC, 2021). In this case, MMPHI explains that scams are more than an issue of money taken from people, rather it often takes people’s self-respect and take a toll on one’s mental health.
Cyberbullying happens every day to one in three young people in 30 countries. Young people aged 13-17 were the primary victims of cyberbullying where one in every five said that they skipped school due to cyberbullying that led to offline violence (UNICEF, 2019). In 2016, the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children: Philippines reports that cyber violence happens daily, growing at an unexpected rate. The report defines cyber violence as “an online behavior that constitutes or leads to assault against the wellbeing (physical, psychological, emotional) of an individual or group” (NBSVAC: Philippines, 2016). Data shows that about 43.8% of 13-17-year-old children experienced cyber violence, with males having more prevalence than females. The cyber violence described in the report includes verbal abuse via the Internet and phones, malicious and sexual messages, scandals and nudity, etc.
Responsible digital citizenship, Making every day a Safer Internet Day
In the digital space, it is important to sustain conversations with the utmost respect, understanding, and empathy towards one another. By finding ways to connect with each other better, we are building a more inclusive online community where each of us as digital citizens will be able to strengthen our support and resilience.
Being a responsible digital citizen means having online social skills to take part in online community life, ethically and respectfully. This includes being respectful of each other’s opinions and differences. We are all different in our own ways, and it is important to acknowledge and celebrate each other’s differences instead of creating barriers to better community life. It is also important, too, to protect one’s privacy and reputation. The Internet is a platform where we can express ourselves, but it is important to remember that we need to be mindful of our actions online – the same way how we are expected to behave gracefully and with dignity offline. It’s also important to know the key and some practical tips towards Internet safety, especially in terms of privacy. This includes keeping passwords secured and private, using multi-authentication passwords in privacy settings, and even being careful of sharing location settings or having locations tracked via apps on our mobile phones (“Digital citizenship”, 2021).
When it comes to becoming responsible digital citizens, it is important to remember that we create a community that is respectful of each other’s differences. At the same time, it is also important to create a more inclusive and empathic culture within communities – one that will enable individuals to freely and authentically express themselves as they find safer spaces in the digital world.
“As we look for new ways to connect with others online, it’s paramount to create spaces where people feel safe, included, and free to speak. When you make this your priority, group members take notice and are more willing to engage. While we have this opportunity for reflection, reevaluate the type of community that you foster and look for tangible ways to make changes. Each choice adds up and creates a safer space for the future,” (Pierre, 2020).
This February 26, 2022, let us continue celebrating World Internet Safety Month. #UsapTayo and Better Today collaborates once again to remind us how to keep the Internet safe for everyone because #UsapangSafety means #MentalHealthMatters.
- What is your own definition of a safe space on the internet?
- What are your personal practices to maintain a safe space on the Internet?
- How can you encourage others to keep the Internet a safe space for everyone?
Bekalu, M.A.., McCloud, R.F., & Viswanath, K. (2019). Association of Social Media Use With Social Well-Being, Positive Mental Health, and Self-Rated Health: Disentangling Routine Use From Emotional Connection to Use. Journals.sagepub.com.46(2), 69-80. https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198119863768.
Digital citizenship: Teens being responsible online. (April 27, 2021). raisingchildren.net. Retrieved February 22, 2022 from https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/entertainment-technology/digital-life/digital-citizenship
Internet for Education: Key Considerations for Advancing Sustainable Development. (January 2019). DOT MAGAZINE. Retrieved February 22, 2022 from https://www.dotmagazine.online/issues/socially-responsible-digitalization/doteditorial-ethical-standards-for-digital/internet-for-education
Mental health and scams: ‘I’d have paid anything to make me feel better. (March 17, 2021). BCC.COM. Retrieved February 22, 2022 from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56416903
Online bullying remains prevalent in the Philippines, other countries. (September 6, 2019). UNICEF. Retrieved February 22, 2022 from https://www.unicef.org/philippines/press-releases/online-bullying-remains-prevalent-philippines-other-countries
Pierre, K.E., (2020, September 4). Five Key Aspects of Creating Safe Spaces Online. Forbes.https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/09/04/five-key-aspects-of-creating-safe-spaces-online/?sh=2bc1b82a6a5f
Council for the Welfare of Children and UNICEF Philippines. (2016). National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children: Philippines