A mother helps her child in the new normal’s distance and online learning program of the Department of Education.
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — In today’s new normal’ amid the coronavirus global pandemic, every child has the right to safe spaces online but did you know that nearly half of Filipino children think that the online world is not safe for them.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the age at which Filipino children who first go online is, on average, 10 years old, and more than fifty percent believe that the Internet could be unsafe for them—with the prevalence of cybercrime, online abuse, and exploitation in social media.
And in celebrating this year’s Safer Internet Day theme ‘Bagong Normal: Ligtas na Internet for All’, SaferKidsPH, Save the Children Philippines, and UNICEF, with support from Australia, has joined the Philippine government and the Child Rights Network to initiate efforts to give ample protection to children against threats on the Internet, especially in the light of the Duterte administration’s push for continuing its format of using distance learning as its primary tool for education.
Since the inception of the Philippine Internet Crimes against Children Center (PICACC) in February 2019, a collaboration between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), together with the Australian Federal Police, United Kingdom National Crime Agency, and International Justice Mission (IJM), 320 children have been rescued from online sexual abuse and exploitation, 77 suspects/facilitators charged and four offenders convicted after only a year of operation.
On the other hand, the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported a 209 percent increase in the cyber tip reports for the Philippines from January to December 2020 (1,294,750 cyber tips) compared to 2019 (418,422 cyber tips), coinciding with the period of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Likewise, the Anti-Money Laundering Council reported a 156 percent increase in the suspicious transactions linked to child sexual abuse and exploitation valued at PhP113 million from 2019 to the first half of last year.
As support for this year’s Safer Internet Day, a month-long advocacy campaign will be jointly organized by SaferKidsPH, the Child Rights Network, and the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP) to reach out to more children and young people and raise their awareness on how to protect themselves from online dangers.
A talk show with children and young people will be held to highlight the importance of mental health and fostering safe online spaces amid the increased use of the internet by children during the quarantine. A series of interactive social media activities will be held to engage children, young people, parents, and advocates in the campaign against online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC). Likewise, digital tips on online safety will be disseminated to increase awareness of children and young people on protective mechanisms and interventions available online.
The campaign will also support the launch of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Child Online Safeguarding Policy which aims to expand and promote protective mechanisms for children when they access internet in public places. Support from digital influencers and public personalities will also be featured to strengthen the reach of this digital advocacy campaign.
As a culminating activity, IACACP and UNICEF will hold a virtual launch of the Philippine Kids Online Survey and the National Study on Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children, both presenting evidence on risks and opportunities linked to internet and the complexity of OSAEC as a crime.
To join in making the Internet safer for kids, visit https://www.saferkidsph.org/help-stop-osaec/. For more information on Safer Internet Day activities, those interested may visit the Facebook page of the SaferKidsPH, Child Rights Network and the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography. (AI/MTVN)