Addressing (healthcare) issues on children’s/teenagers’ access to social media

[box]

#HealthXPH is proud to welcome Dr. Helen Madamba as guest moderator for its tweet chat on January 10, 2015, 9:00 PM Manila time.

Dr. Helen Madamba is  an OB-GYN infectious disease specialist at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City Philippines. She is an HIV advocate (member of the VSMMC HACT, OBGYN coordinator) research enthusiast (research coordinator, VSMMC OB-GYN Residents and Cebu Doctors University College of Medicine Level I), head of VSMMC Program for Young Parents (a teen mom clinic) and Executive Director, The Share A Child Movement Inc.

This blog post was written by Dr. Madamba.[/box]

Wikipedia defines social media as computer-mediated tools that allow people to create, share or exchange information, ideas and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks.(1) With the onset of smaller portable laptops and internet access even thru hand-held cellphones, social media is now literally at the fingertips of young adults and even young children– with few restrictions, if any. The younger generation has become bolder and more aggressive. They have a different value system from older generations. They have also become more vulnerable. They chat with complete strangers, from the other side of the globe. Most, if not all Filipino youngsters are active on facebook, twitter, instagram, viber, line, whatsapp etc.

Perhaps there is a link between Filipino adolescents’ use of social media and the increasing prevalence of teenage pregnancy and exploitation of young children in our country.

Recent (2014) data from the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) reveal that every hour, 24 babies are delivered by teenage mothers.(2) According to the 2014 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS) study, around 14 percent of Filipino girls aged 15 to 19 are either pregnant for the first time or are already mothers—more than twice the rate recorded in 2002. Among six major economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies and is the only country where the rate is increasing, per the United Nations Population Fund.(2)

There have been anecdotal accounts of young girls forming relationships with strange men online and having sexual intercourse even on first meeting. Some girls get raped. Sadly, the Philippines is at risk for webcam child sex tourism and cyberpornography – combined. This has been reported in some impoverished communities in Cebu. In November 2014, Terre des Homes showed a multi-awarded film “Lilet Never Happened” about child prostitution in the Philippines. The organization also used a virtual Filipina child named Sweetie to apprehend thousands of child perpetuators worldwide.(3)

There is perhaps a link between young Filipinos’ use of social media and the increasing prevalence of teenage pregnancy and exploitation of young children in the Philippines. We would like to address this topic in tomorrow’s (January 10, 2015) #HealthXPH tweetchat. We ask,

  • T1. What are the dangers of young children and adolescents having access to social media?
    T2. How can we safeguard our children from these dangers from social media?
    T3. What online resources can you recommend to advocates and healthcare workers to prevent teenage pregnancy and the exploitation of young children in the Philippines?

References:
1. Wikipedia definition of social media. Accessed January 8, 2015 from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media.
2. Carin Van der Hor. Teenage pregnancy among today’s Filipino youth. Accessed January 8, 2015 from http://opinion.inquirer.net/74517/teenage-pregnancy-among-todays-filipino-youth.
3. Sweetie. Webcam child sex tourism: time for action. Terre des Hommes Stops Child Exploitation. Accessed January 8, 2015 from http://terredeshommesnl.org/en/sweetie.