Cyber Wellness is about the proactive and positive use of the internet, social and mobile applications. It is not a list of do’s and don’ts but a mindset that promotes a culture of respect and safety in the social web
Cyber Wellness is not a new concept, its the non-techie version of online safety. This is about the ideal online behavior– how digital media, social and mobile applications are used with the end in mind of adding value and protecting oneself from any forms of negative online experiences.
Why Cyber Wellness?
This picture from Facebook page Dim Sum and Doughnuts can best illustrate the need for a Cyber Wellness program.
On a corporate note, the online behavior of employees can affect the reputation of employers and a disregard for digital hygiene can compromise the intellectual property and digital assets of the company.
And because of the COVID-19 induced lockdowns, online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) increased. Add to that, online scams and phishing, improved resulting in the hacking of BDO clientele base were deposts were stolen systematically, and Landbank account holders who lost their money thru phishing.
The Evolution of Cyber Wellness in the Philippines
The first Cyber wellness campaign in the Philippines was conceptualized in 2010
It was a turning point for the early adopters of blogging and social media users back then because mainstream media and PR/Ad/Marketing agencies have embraced the platform. So early adopters have chosen a niche to take advantage of this opportunity. Some embraced Digital Marketing and PR, others online news media, and still others eCommerce. These colleagues are now popular in the niche they have chosen.
I decided to stick with my HR and OD roots and influence the HR industry to instead go digital social and mobile. But I thought then if others will engage executives to convince companies to protect their brand, why not offer the same to families?
Keep Your Family Safe Online Seminars
I floated the idea via Facebook to hold a supposedly one-time parenting seminar. Chay Saputil, who was promoting online safety for a software company volunteered to help out. Carlo Ople, who was a gamer then, also volunteered to share his experience so parents will be enlightened about the effects of gaming. Girlie Corda, who was into creatives and strategic communications, volunteered to do the creative materials for us. The seminar was an instant hit, and the learning event has become one of the sought-after seminars for parents. Thus, the first phase of the cyber wellness campaign was born.
Because of the turn of events, the announcement page, websafetyforparents.org, was converted to a blog and became our platform to discuss web safety tips for parents. It eventually won the Best in Advocacy Blog in 2010.
The following year, 2011, the same initiative propelled us to become a finalist for Globe’s 1st T@tt Awards.
Cyber/Bullying Awareness and Prevention Campaign
Not long after that, the program evolved from teaching parents, to educating young people to be responsible for their online behavior. Unknown to these youngsters, they can either be victims of cyber bullying or bashers of another person. I thought back then, anytime soon, cyberbullying will become a major issue. I published a blog post/open letter ( I can’t recall if I also sent an email to major networks, but I think I did) inviting them to collaborate and help out on the campaign. Anytime soon, I thought then, there will be a major issue. I got no response, but a few weeks after that, a network launched their think before you click campaign.
As I was anticipating (but hoping it’ll not happen), a major cyber bullying incident broke out– the Chris Lao, “I was not informed”, case. The irony was, a news clip of the same network which launched the above campaign, was the trigger point of nationwide cyberbullying.
Because we’re campaigning online about the threat of cyber abuse, before a major incident happened, we’ve been invited left and right for our awareness and prevention campaign in schools.
Parents, Schools and Cyber Wellness
Soon after the Chris Lao incident, we have other high profile bullying and online abuse cases. Because of that, new laws were passed– the anti-cyber crime, anti-bullying and data privacy laws.
Add to that, an interesting jurisprudence by the Supreme Court. A resolution in a case wherein students were disbarred from marching on their graduation day because of online behaviour that violated school policy, underscored the need for schools and parents to work closely in ensuring kids will be responsible users of social media and mobile apps.
Because of the changes in our digital landscape, our program further evolved. Our approach has become holistic to include all stakeholders. Our democratic space is a breeding ground for online abuse, thus, educating parents, kiddos and the academe is the best defense against abuses.
We’ve been to different schools, colleges, universities, parent organizations, NGOs to facilitate cyber wellness learning activities. Some schools even incorporated our cyber wellness program for their faculty development seminar.
Cyber Wellness for companies and professionals
Professional organizations and companies need to integrate these in their strategic thinking because their online reputation is at stake. Knowledge of rights-based use of the social web promotes safe digital spaces, and the practice of digital hygiene protects you from scammers,
For companies, they have to ensure that their online philosophy and policies respect both the rights of employees and management.
What comprises a Cyber Wellness program
We seek to provide integrated learning, so all stakeholders will be on the same page as far as the objectives are a concern
- School Admin
- Faculty Members and Guidance Counselors
- Corporations and Employees
- NGOs and Social Workers
- Government (Dep Ed and Baranggay)
Main Objectives of the Program:
- For Schools: Align school policies to that of the legal framework, Dep Ed guidelines, and best practices.
- For Corporations: Enhanced company policies to balance digital rights with digital accountabilities and reflect provisions of the cybercrime and data privacy laws
- Provide learning interventions that will enhance positive and proactive use of the internet, social web, and mobile platforms. With the end result of adding value to oneself and the organization they represent
- Equip participants with how to protect themselves, the family and the school, and the organization they represent from negative online experiences or cyber abuses. And know how to respond when they faced one
- Bridge the digital divide
- Provide awareness of the effects of bullying and other forms of cyber abuses
Cyber Wellness Advocate Partners
We are open to collaboration with other advocates, brands, NGOs to advance our common interests, despite the differences in the nature of our initiatives.
More needs to be done
My Facebook account, Page, and this blog have become helpline/ chat support for parents, kiddos, and other victims of cyber abuse who are seeking help. I personally brought the experiences of these victims to DOJ. The need right now is to have a facility for victims to talk to someone anonymously but freely (while they are still embarrassed, confused, and not confident yet to disclose their identities). Some would like to commit suicide, others (victims and their parents) are ashamed because of scandalous videos or nude photos involved. To add disappointment to rather awful experience, when they visit women and child protection unit of PNP or the Cybercrime units of either PNP and NBI, the victims alleged that they were advised by these agencies that it’ll be difficult and expensive to identify the culprit, discouraging them on the process. Here’s hoping that DOJ will be able to address these concerns in the future.
How You Can Participate?
If you’re from the academe either as a guidance counselor, teacher, as a decision-maker, you can make cyber wellness an integral part of the (1) academic and non-academic programs of students (all levels), (2) collaborate w/ the parent organizations to have the run the parent’s edition of this program to parents and (3) Include this in the faculty development seminar.
If you’re a parent, you can reach out to the school thru the parent organization or the class adviser and request a learning intervention for kids and a digital parenting seminar.
If you’re an HR of you’re a company, this is something that needs to be included in your engagement program because employee online behavior affects not only productivity but employee image and reputation.
You can reach us at asksonnie[at]outlook[dot]ph or +63285149980 for assistance.