Facebook and education in Peru: Good intentions, no liability

Teachers in Peru have been using Facebook as an educational tool for years to fulfill Ministry of Education requirements regarding information and communication technologies. Nevertheless, the Peruvian State has not trained them to prevent online risks for children when carrying out this work.

In November 2016, founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg opened the international business meeting APEC CEO Summit in Lima, where met the President of Peru at that time Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and some members of his cabinet including the former Minister of Education Jaime Saavedra -currently Global Director for Education at The World Bank- to “discuss the importance of joining forces to improve connectivity and educational quality in Peru”.

For the Peruvian Ministry of Education, it is essential that students learn to use information and communication technologies so they can expand their knowledge and have the skills required by the demanding and competitive current labor market. The problem lies in the little or no guidance that teachers have received to show their students how to achieve that.

According to the article The “ICT Competence” from the Perspective of Peruvian Secondary Teachers: More Than Digital Skills by Dr. Julio Cesar Mateus and Dr. Maria Teresa Quiroz, in 2017 the Ministry of Education created the “Information and Communication Technologies  Competence”  in the  Peruvian  National  Curriculum, which implies to participate responsibly in social networks and virtual communities.

The launch of Facebook’s product Messenger Kids in 2018 had already raised a wave of warnings about the negative effects social media could have on children. Nearly 100 child development experts wrote an open letter urging to remove Messenger Kids saying that the platform was an "irresponsible" measure to encourage children to use Facebook.

The specialists claimed that the children "are not prepared to have accounts in social networks” since “they are not old enough to understand the complexities of online relationships". However, the Spanish version of Messenger Kids was launched in Peru in June 2018, becoming the first country in Latin America with this official Facebook application.

By 2019, according to the Peruvian National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI), 85.7% of Peru’s population aged 12-18 was Internet users and among children from 6 to 11 years old, 69.8% accessed the Internet. Also, 77.9% of adolescents aged 12 to 18 and 59% of children aged 6 to 11 access the Internet through cell phones.

The same year, the press office of the Ministry of Education published a release supporting the experience of teacher Patricia Carrascal and two colleagues using a closed Facebook group where they boosted dialogue and transferring of files and storyboards so that students, through photographs, expressed their creativity and emotions using with their smartphones. Vice-principal Percy Leon had the intention of systematizing that project to become a good teaching practice for the school.

“The use of social media as an educational tool has been promoted and learned many times in a self-taught way by teachers, it has not been based on educational policies", says Dr. Julio Cesar Mateus in an interview. The Associate Professor and researcher at the University of Lima considers as the main need the State tackles media literacy from a critical perspective.

“Media, including digital media, are educational actors, but they are not understood as such. Teachers make use of them in an instrumental way, but they do not necessarily have a sociocultural view of their impacts: they do not know what is behind social networks, such as algorithms. This should be covered by the Ministry of Education”, he points out.

After the revelations of whistleblower Frances Haugen and the current investigation of the Facebook files about the potential psychological harm children are exposed to when using social networks, now it is more urgent than ever that educational authorities in Peru assume the responsibility that corresponds to them and train teachers for online child protection.

Guest author

Elena Guadalupe Madge from Peru

Contributions by external authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors.

January 2022