Two neophyte senators, Robinhood “Robin” Padilla and Rafael “Raffy” Tulfo, have a somewhat simplistic solution to the complicated problem of teenage pregnancy—limiting teenagers’ access to social media.
It could be true that various social media sites, famous among them Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, have effects on the sexual behavior of teenagers, both males and females. As there is no curriculum on sex education in the Philippine education system, teenagers are learning about their sexuality on the internet, often done in secret, away from their parents’ prying eyes.
However, limiting teenagers’ access to social media sites is not the best way to deal with the problem of teenage pregnancy. There are many ways to evade restrictions on the internet.
First things first, the public must acknowledge that teenage pregnancy is a problem.
The Philippine National Nutrition Council has said teenage pregnancy has negative consequences, and the most affected are the teenage mothers. It said “early childbearing may result in poor health outcomes and may be a threat to the country’s economic growth. Pregnant adolescents are less likely to complete higher education and have lesser ability to earn more income over the course of a lifetime, causing economic losses to the country.”
During the recent Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality hearing, senators learned that the Philippine Statistics Authority recorded 2,113 births of young girls aged 10-14 in 2020. A year later, this number increased to 2,299 births, according to the Department of Health data.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros has pushed anew for the passage of the Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy Bill, because “adolescent pregnancy has deprived many girls of an education, of job opportunities, of a future.”
A teen parent, Carmela Bondoc, said during the hearing that it is important for young moms like her to receive culturally sensitive, age- and development-appropriate adolescent and health education.
“Edukasyon na tamang gagabay sa amin. Impormasyon na galing sa mga health professionals. Impormasyong tama. Impormasyong hindi ipagkakait sa amin ng dahil sa panghuhusga. Edukasyong nagbibigay ng dignidad sa aming desisyon para sa sarili (Education that will guide us properly. Information from health professionals. Correct information. Information that will not be withheld from us because of discrimination. Education that gives dignity to our decision for self),” she said.
Education indeed is the best tool to address the teenage pregnancy problem of the country. And it is high time to include the subject on reproductive health in the Philippine education system.
An informed youth is one of the country’s best assets.
Senators Padilla and Tulfo should reconsider their stance as restricting social media access has a serious legal question—implementing it could violate the right of Filipinos, adults and non-adults, to free speech.
Tapping the wide reach of social media sites is one of the best tools for educating teenagers about the perils of teenage pregnancy. Restricting teenagers’ access to them could further put themselves in the dark.
February 08, 2023
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