POPCOM urges parents: ECQ best time to guide teens Warns about youth exposure to explicit material, porn online

POPCOM urges parents: ECQ best time to guide teens Warns about youth exposure to explicit material, porn online

With the ongoing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in effect all over Luzon and many parts of the country, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) is encouraging parents and guardians to maximize the time spent with their children indoors by enhancing their familial bonds, which can strengthen the youngsters’ self-esteem and life skills necessary to achieve their aspirations and potentials.

The lead population management agency also advises heads of households to monitor their adolescents’ online activities, as the latter have more time spent with gadgets. This makes teenagers potentially exposed to explicit content that may negatively influence their sexual maturation. It may also lead them later to consider early sexual encounters that may eventually result in early pregnancies.

“The ECQ presents a rare opportunity for parents and their teenage children to discuss matters openly pertaining to growing up, and perhaps go beyond their usual conversations by slowly building up dialogues about sexuality,” Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH explained. “POPCOM strongly believes it is better that adults initiate the chats, rather than their children sourcing their knowledge on sex and sexuality from their peers or worse, the Internet.”

POPCOM’s executive director raised this concern in view of researches such as the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS4, 2013) study, which examined the open access of adolescents to online messages through various information and communication technologies. It revealed that more than half of Filipino youth (61% females, 57% males) are exposed to the Internet.

The YAFS4 also cited high incidences of exposure to pornographic videos among youths from Caraga (66.7%) and the National Capital Region (66.2%), while exploring explicit websites are pronounced among the young in NCR (36%) and Zamboanga (33%).

Said study also affirmed that the web “offers young people the possibility to discreetly access information on issues that they may be too embarrassed to ask or talk about because of cultural reasons.” Moreover, it disclosed that “sex-related topics are one of the [most searched] on the Internet*.”

Further analysis of the YAFS also showed that “young adults who have been exposed to pornography or sexually explicit contents are more likely to engage in premarital sex and to have early sexual initiation, defined as sexual intercourse before age 18**.”

While mobile phones, tablets and laptops are now common devices for communication, schoolwork and entertainment, Perez advises parents that they should be aware of their adolescents’ activities, especially when youngsters are accessing the Internet and social media to properly guide them during the process of their sexual maturation and in developing their life skills that can enable them to prevent risky sexual behaviors.

“While it is true that obtaining information online and via social media has become the norm, we do not want our young people getting their initial information on sex through the Internet without proper guidance and contextualization,” Perez pointed out. “We at POPCOM believe that the first communication on human sexuality should still be between humans: parents and children at that – instead of interactions by our kids over the Internet.”

The POPCOM chief continued, “After the ECQ, we might not have another chance to spend long, precious and quality time with our children. As parents, we should take hold of this opportunity while the rest of the world takes a reset. That also includes the way our youth perceives and processes the subject of sexuality.”

“And as heads of families, there is one sort of epidemic where we can try and ‘flatten the curve’—that is, of teenage pregnancy,” Perez added. “As we protect our family from the COVID-19 infection, it is equally important that we protect our children from the threats of risky behaviors.”

To help parents and adolescents make worthwhile and meaningful dialogues or conversations during the ECQ, particularly about sexuality issues, POPCOM is continuously disseminating information and communication resource materials through its Facebook pages: Commission on Population and Development and @UsapTayoSaFP as well as its website: www.popcom.gov.ph.

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