Today the Ministry of Education opened a two-day forum to revise a Cyberbullying manual before it can be adopted in Belize. Facilitators included a representative of International Telecoms Union based in Barbados as well as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry from the University of Florida. Teachers, principals, counselors, and other education personnel were in attendance. Brenda Armstrong, Supervisor for Secondary Schools Supervision and Support Unit of the Ministry of Education told us more
Brenda Armstrong, Secondary Schools Supervision & Support Unit, Min. of Edu.: The ministry of Education in Belize has made a commitment since 2015 to work along with other Caribbean countries, and within our own country to establish protocols and policies that will govern the security of internet use. Last year in fact on June 27th and 28th of 2016, we had a first session that involved the participation of representation from the ITU and the manual that is being used today and tomorrow is the result of that consultation. We have been actively participating in addition, we have supported the Belize Association of Principals of Secondary Schools to focus attention on the entire gamut of issues related to internet security and responsible use of internet protocols and devices.
Sylvester Cadet is the Program Officer at International Telecoms Union in Barbados. He spoke more about today’s workshop and why it is important.
Sylvester Cadet, Program Officer ITU Barbados: we have been looking very closely at the whole issue of cybercrime, cyber bullying, as a key element in the security of young persons. And in that regard the ITU have set up an initiative referred to as the Child Online Protection Initiative in partnership with the many partners around the world, global partners, including some of the UN agencies, industry players, academia as well as sector members, and by sector members we are referring to the members of the ITU who are in industry. This is critical especially when one considers what is happening around the world now with young persons. And the impact that cyberbullying has on their social life, their mental wellbeing as well as their outlook generally. In fact, cyberbullying has led to very grave circumstances including suicide, including of course lashing out in violent ways. And other areas in which it has impacted not just the victim, but also the perpetrators themselves, as well as their family circle, their school circles. It has impacted on the way in which they lead their everyday lives in such ways that has called grave concern.
According to Armstrong, while there is no data base on cyber bullying in Belize, it remains a major concern for the ministry.
Brenda Armstrong, Secondary Schools Supervision & Support Unit, Min. of Edu.: Responsible use of internet and digital devices is a major concern. Our teenagers and adults have not yet fully embraced the reality that what you put in digital form and make available becomes the property of everyone and that is therefore a major concern for us. Even without the application or the statistics on the report in cases we do know that the problem is critical.
Shirley Eileen, Asst. Prof. of Psychology, Uni. Florida: I believe that before any child is allowed to have a device there should be a very clear education around what the purpose of this device, how it should be used, what are the consequences for inappropriate use and access to devices should be very gradual. What do I mean? I mean that a parent should not go out and buy their 13 year old child an iPhone as the first phone that they receive.
After the two day workshop, suggested changes will be taken to the facilitator who developed the manual for regional revision. According to Armstrong however, schools are encouraged to begin implementing the manual as soon as the final document is published.