“To run away from trouble is a form of cowardice and, while it is true that the suicide braves death, he does it not for some noble object but to escape some ill.” –Aristotle
Iloilo Provincial Board Member Matt Palabrica suspects the most common reason for suicide among Iloilo youth is related to problems with family, love life, school, and money. He recently expressed his alarm at the upsurge of suicide cases in the province and appealed for the provincial government, schools, health officials, police, among other sectors to take action.
The provincial office cited an Iloilo Police Provincial Office report that found there were 179 suicide cases recorded between 2016 and June 2019, 35 of which involved individuals between the ages of nine and 21.
However, could wider internet connectivity, which potentially exposes young people to sexual abuse, online harassment, and bullying, play a role in the figures?
A United Nations-backed report published last Tuesday referenced a study by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, which underlines the need for everyone to ensure children remain safe as they explore “the digital world.” The study was produced by the commission’s working group on child online safety and laid out staggering statistics showing the extent and scale of the problem.
For instance, in one year, the Internet Watch Foundation found more than 105,000 websites hosting child sexual abuse material.
According to a press release put out by the group: “It takes a village to keep children safe both online and offline. Therefore, all the stakeholders need to prioritize children, collaborate and generate collective actions to prevent and address all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation of children online.”
The report went on to recommend countries take immediate action since no government has yet to fully develop effective protection systems.
Steps that protect children online include establishing a single national authority with ultimate responsibility for child online safety, as well as ensuring robust legislation is in place, among other measures.
The report also highlighted differences in internet accessibility.
According to UNICEF research, there are more than two million people under the age of 18 and around 71 percent are online. However, millions are still waiting to log on as 60 percent of young Africans are not online.
The report stated: “In Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, connectivity has not yet reached all children. With the expansion of affordable broadband to these parts of the developing world, there is an urgent need to put in place measures to minimize the risks and threats to these children, while also allowing them to capitalize on all the benefits the digital world can bring to our societies.”
Alex P. Vidal, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo./WDJ