A “silent pandemic” is currently affecting children – one that is probably more devastating and harmful than the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Child rights group Save the Children Philippines on Tuesday, Feb. 9, has raised concern that more “children are at risk from online sexual abuse and exploitation” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This as families “resort to easy money due to deepening poverty while children are still not allowed to leave homes.”
Save the Children Philippines Chief Executive Officer Atty. Alberto Muyot said the pandemic is no longer just a health crisis but a “child rights crisis” that must be addressed with urgency.
“Online sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a silent pandemic that has permanent and devastating effects on children’s mental health and psychosocial well-being,” Muyot, a former Undersecretary of the Department of Education (DepEd), said.
Given this, Muyot called on the local government units, schools, and communities to “strengthen the protective and legal services to ensure that children are safe” from online sexual abuse and exploitation.
With the theme, “Bagong Normal: Ligtas na Internet for All” the annual Safer Internet Day for Children in the Philippines also called on public and private stakeholders to join the campaign in making the internet a safer and better place for all – especially for children and young people.
Save the Children Philippines noted that the cases of OSAEC in the Philippines “increased by 264.6 percent or 202,605 more reports during the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine from March to May 2020” compared to the 76,561 cases during the same period in 2019, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), citing data from the US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Given this, the group expressed support to the Malacañang’s call to strengthen the campaign against OSAEC by monitoring the strict implementation of Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.
The child rights organization is also joining the month-long campaign activities in Metro Manila and Mindanao to raise awareness on protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
The Safer Internet Day is celebrated worldwide in February to promote the “safe and positive use of digital technology” especially for children and young people.