FEBRUARY 10-14 is National Awareness Week for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, while Feb. 11 is Safer Internet Day. These two observances aim to raise awareness on online safety particularly for children, and the important role of all adults in helping protect children online.
Do you know that the government’s National Baseline Study on Violence against Children (NBS-VAC) revealed that one in two children experience online abuse with one in four being exposed to sexually explicit content?
Children also said they have been sent sexual messages (29%) and some (3%) said they have shared images of themselves nude or their sexual activities on the internet or through their mobile phones.
There are several factors that contribute to this online abuse: the lack of capacity of families to support their children’s basic needs and the prevailing notion that the lack of physical contact means there is no abuse or exploitation that is taking place.
The Systematic Literature Review (SLR) of the Drivers of Violence identified the following as the drivers of online violence: poverty, broken homes, poor parenting, consumerism, peer influence, family values, and socio-cultural beliefs and norms.
Addressing these drivers requires strengthening the country’s child protection system. This means the government should pass and implement laws and policies that would protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation, have prevention programs and accessible services for children and their families, implement widespread information dissemination on the issue, and prosecute those who are exploiting our children and women through the use of information, communication technologies.
The private sector’s involvement is crucial, too, such as the internet service providers and the business owners who operate internet shops. Safety measures must be put in place to make sure that children who are using the internet are protected.
Engaging in risky online behavior is common for Filipino children, according to the SLR, and because of their largely unsupervised internet use, children are at great risk for online sexual solicitation and grooming. Hence, families and schools play a crucial role in keeping children safe online.
The family should provide the first layer of protection for children. A good relationship between parents and their children will ensure that they will listen to their parent’s advice, and that the parent can respectfully monitor their children’s use of the internet. They should also take the time to educate their kids on how they can protect themselves online, which also means that they should also be knowledgeable on the safe use of the internet and social media.
If the family is unable to provide this for whatever reason, the government should give them the necessary support.