Finding a Balance with Screens - Children of the Mekong

Finding a Balance with Screens

Holistic training, Module 2: Opening up to the world


The education-focused non-governmental organization, Children of the Mekong, has been thinking about issues related to pedagogy and the sound development of young people for a long time. Its ambition is to educate the poorest people, providing an education that is both academic and human.

So, what are the three pillars of holistic training? Building yourself, opening up to the world, being involved in the world.

Testimonials from our Local Programme Managers


Some young people we take care of tell us that they are tired and that they sleep badly. It makes them very irritable and that’s partly because of the screens. Although the country is very poor and there are great economic inequalities within the population, most young people have access to screens, or even smartphones. In the poorest families, some deprive themselves of food to be able to buy a mobile phone. From there, young people spend a lot of time on their screen. All are on social networks or play online. The situation has worsened in the past year when most young people are still confined to their homes and school can only be done remotely. This has very harmful effects on our children. We must react and encourage them to become aware of the dangers of digital technology.


In Thailand, the problem is that children are used to screens from an early age. In Thai culture, the very young are often considered as kings. The parents, and especially the grandparents who take care of them when the parents are working, particularly in poor areas, meet their every whim. Phones are often the way to keep a child calm and many babies spend significant time in front of adults’ screens.

Ravelynne, Children of the Mekong's local programme manager in the Philippines

5.8 million

That’s the number of new,

active social media users

  in the Philippines

in less than a year.

65 % of Filipinos

aged 15 to 19 said they used the internet in 2019.


Many people, especially young people, live on the comments they get after publishing a post on social networks. This global phenomenon also affects our sponsored children, in all our countries of action. Nose plastered to the screen, their heart follows the same variations as the number of “likes” which surge — or not. This overflow of emotions is not easy to manage. In the age of positive pedagogy, what should we think of these excessive encouragements, which unfortunately are sometimes lacking on important subjects? So many of the “posts” are scrolled through at high speed on social networks.

One of the activities of the “How to be smart to use a smartphone” training, which is popular with young people, is simply a discussion around this very short comic strip which tells the story of a little cat in search of a “like”. Simple. Without words. Hard-hitting. This page feeds the discussions and makes you think, become aware, also sometimes helps to trip back the drama. As always, it’s about finding the balance: how far can I take risks in my posts? A great introduction to the concept of an “e-reputation”, which will be a major issue in their future job searches.

Cat, comic book


Children sponsored by Children of the Mekong


Our programme managers are particularly alarmed by the new behaviours that the health crisis and distance learning have brought about in their young people.

Some say that they spend twelve hours a day in front of their phone. They are only twelve years old. The grandmother watching them is not surprised: she warned them, but nothing happened. And what did she say? In the south of Thailand, it is rare to find young people who spend less than 3 hours a day on the screens. Some parents believe that they will see their child grow up as a future computer engineer, others find it the cheapest childcare solution in the region.This is clearly misinformation, because some children drop out of the school system when they no longer find the time to do their homework in the face of their enthusiasm for Youtube videos and online gaming. One game in particular captures the attention of many: a 10-minute game to be the last survivor on an island, against 49 competitors. This new Hunger Game for smartphones monopolises their attention, and young people play more and more because the stakes are high and the competition is fierce. 10 minutes, 20 times, 30 times in a row adds up. Children of the Mekong is alarmed by this situation, which is sadly common in all countries in Southeast Asia.

“We are not the only ones to realize this, but today there are few training courses that address all aspects related to screens: the good and the bad,” explains Armelle Lahalle, head of the holistic training of Children of the Mekong. “Having not yet discovered an educational partner aligning to our vision, we now offer a half-day training course that we have created ourselves, developed with young professionals who are specialists in these subjects.” The purpose of the course is to make young people think about the key issues related to using screens and social networks. Privacy, security, health, social ties, well-being and environmental consequences — so many topics on which they are invited to provide their own opinions. In the form of ten games and ten underlying advices, the training that excites young people is easy to adapt. Today, of the six countries that Children of the Mekong work in, five have already used and adapted the content to apply to their country and are offering it in a new form. “Our programme managers are particularly alarmed by the new behaviors that the health crisis and distance learning have caused to their young people,” explains Armelle. “In several of our countries of operation, the upcoming school holidays will be an opportunity to dedicate summer camps to this theme.”

The objective of the course is not an immediate revolution in behaviour. It is to create an awareness, associated with tools. Also, out of the ten pieces of advice given, everyone will have to retain four and make them their own. These tips have their tools, such as the app that allows you to measure the time spent per week on your phone, search engines that check for fake news, or even simply putting their phone on airplane mode. If they also use a little common sense, and we provide them with a “booster shot” a few months later to revive the enthusiasm of the first few days, the school still have a bright future ahead of them.

Sponsored Child's Testimonial

“I liked this course because it helped me learn how to use social networks, not to relay fake news, not to believe everything you read on Facebook, etc. Activities are valuable experiences to help us make better use of social media. I particularly liked the workshop on the question ‘Why are you sometimes sad when you don’t get a lot of ‘likes’ on Facebook or Instagram?’ because it allowed me to take a step back. I was able to get to know myself and, above all, my own feelings better. On the other hand, I did not like it very much when the activities forced me to show my emotions too much. I know that there were situations where my phone is a good tool and others where it isn’t. Especially when it’s time to sleep!”

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