8 out of 10 Filipino children are at risk for online sex abuse, says UNICEF
A growing number of these children suffer unimaginable abuse at the hands of their own parents.
As parents, you want to protect your kids from harm. So it is truly frightening to know that there are threats all around them. And that there are some parents, out of desperation, resort to exploiting their own children.
Online child sex abuse is a growing problem in this country, which UNICEF has named the top source of child pornography in the world.
According to the United Nations, thousands of children, mostly in poor communities, are falling victim to this burgeoning ‘business.’ Sadly, in some cases, their own parents are carrying out the abuse.
Victims of cybersex abuse in the Philippines can be as young as 2 months old. And it’s not just little girls that fall prey to abusers. A recent study found that a third of those sexually abused are boys.
A case study by UNICEF pointed out that cybersex can escalate to physical prostitution. They cited the case of a 12-year-old girl who was paid $3 for each coerced sex act show. Had she not been rescued, her parents would have forced her into prostitution.
“Child pornography is a billion-dollar industry, and Filipino children are the ones being traded and exploited online. Children who are made to perform sex acts in front of a web camera will never get their childhood back. We must all work together to protect our children,” Unicef Country Representative Lotta Sylwander told Rappler.
An in-depth feature by The Guardian found that many of the children who had been exploited by their parents had no idea that what they were doing was “anything but ordinary.”
Some even felt “betrayed” when they were rescued, fearing that their parents, who had been imprisoned, were blaming them for what happened.
Not only will these abuses cause lasting psychological damage, it also increases health risks of HIV in kids. About 5,700 young boys and girls been living with HIV as of December 2017, including about 500 children under 15 years old.
The fact that most of the abuses happen over encrypted Skype calls, with transactions happening over anonymous wire transfers, makes it even more difficult to catch perpetrators.
But organizations like the Virtual Global Task Force aren’t giving up the fight.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been increasing efforts to fight child pornography.
To expand their reach, the DSWD have put up a website to educate children, parents, guardians, and others about online safety.
To protect kids from being victimized by online predators, they need to know basic online safety rules.
Don’t give out personal information, like your address or phone number, even to friends they met online.
- Think before you click. This goes for uploading photos, text, online. Remember: what you post online, stays there.
- Do not be a bully. Anonymity doesn’t excuse rude behavior. Always practice kindness online.
- Do not interact with strangers. Don’t talk to strangers doesn’t just apply to life offline. Your child should know that there are dangerous people lurking online.
- Do not share passwords with anyone besides mom and dad. Privacy should be of utmost importance. It is one of the keys of online safety.
- Do not download anything without permission. Even if the app or software seems harmless, it could easily have inappropriate ads or features not suitable for kids.
- Just because it’s online doesn’t make it true. In the age of fake news, it’s so easy for many to misinterpret viral content and take it as fact.
- Be wary or internet pornography. If your child is still too young, just let them know there are videos and images out there that aren’t appropriate. Don’t go into too much detail. Protecting them from seeing porn at a young age can help them develop a healthy attitude on sexuality.
- If they see something inappropriate, tell an adult. Teach kids not to be ashamed if they see something bad or for “grown-ups.” If they feel the least bit uncomfortable about what they saw, they should speak up about it.