UNICEF-backed surveys reveal online dangers facing Filipino children

Published August 2, 2021, 5:15 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Two recent studies on online child pornography in the Philippines have confirmed online dangers facing Filipino children today, thus the studies recommended the formulation of a “National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) related development framework to serve as guideposts for the country’s policymakers.”

UNICEF

In commemoration of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the Department of Social Welfare and Development – Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography, together with partners from the Child Rights Network (CRN), UNICEF Philippines, and the SaferKidsPH Consortium, launched two new studies on online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC).

The first study – the Philippine Kids Online (PKO) Survey – presents new data on Filipino children’s access to the Internet, and their online behavior and practices while the second study shows how OSAEC has proliferated in the country alongside technological evolution and analyzes the profiles of offenders, perpetrators, child-victims, and their families, as well as the impact of online sexual abuse and exploitation to children and their communities.

Highlighted in both studies were several recommendations for the government and civil society to wholly address the OSAEC phenomenon and take more effective steps to protect Filipino children as they navigate online platforms, especially more so during the time of the pandemic.

The PKO study includes a survey which was administered in 25 selected provinces in the country, with a total of 1,873 children-respondents aged 9-17 years and highlights the following results:

  • The age at which children in the Philippines first go online is, on average, 10 years old, and they spend on average under two hours (116 minutes) a day online.
  • Social media dominates children’s Internet use.
  • Children use the Internet for connecting with others, and for schoolwork and education, more than for any other purposes.
  • Eight out of 100 children interact regularly with someone they met online outside their community when playing games; six in 100 interact regularly with someone they first met online via a social network site or app.
  • One in two children report having used the Internet for schoolwork at least every week to almost all the time, and more girls, than boys, reported regular use of the Internet for schoolwork.
  • Four in 10 children play online games by themselves, and nearly three in 10 children play multiplayer online games.
  • Fewer than one in two children feel safe using the Internet.
  • The majority of children show their face on their profile, and many show both their address and full-body photos.
  • One in ten children accepts friend requests from anyone, whether known to them, their friends, or family. These people could be absolute strangers to the child.
  • More than one in five children also reported ending up on websites without knowing how they got there.
  • Most children in the Philippines have not encountered risks, sexual or otherwise, online in the past year. However, one in four children in the Philippines have encountered sexual images online, while one in seven has received sexual messages in the past year. One in five reports that something has happened at least once over the past year that upset or bothered them online.
  • One in seven children have also at least once met someone offline they first got to know online over the past year.
  • Very few children who experience any form of unwanted sexual attention or contact sought help or assistance for their experience.

The PSO study also called on the government to identify “high-risk” communities and populations for targeted caregivers and parent’s digital literacy training, and build the capacity of educators at the school level, and within schools, to identify the signs of online abuse and exploitation, cyber-bullying and other forms of negative online experiences that may impact adversely on children.

On the National Study on OSAEC, the study involved 129 key informant interviews (KIIs) and 16 focus group discussions (FGDs) in four different regions in the country.

A key finding of the OSAEC study notes that the issue is a “complex phenomenon” that needs to be tackled from a multi-disciplinary approach through the concerted effort of different government units at the national and local levels, nongovernment agencies, international agencies and organizations, and inter-agency councils.

Based on the study, “offenders entice children to participate in sexual abuse and exploitation both online and offline.”

It noted that free online connectivity, widespread use of cellphones, irresponsible use of technology, and insufficient computer literacy of children and their parents “pose threats of exposure to OSAEC-related activities.”

The study recommended the creation of an integrated framework for responding to OSAEC-related cases covering the continuum of interventions—from prevention, identification, reporting, rescue, trial, and aftercare – that will promote the effective collaboration among different government and non-government agencies.”

UNICEF Philippines Country Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said the study also confirms initial observations that public awareness regarding OSAEC has indeed grown over the years yet remains insufficient – especially about accessing pathways for case resolution and management.

“The study thus serves as a concrete roadmap towards not only preventing OSAEC but also ensuring that restorative justice is provided to victims of abuse,” he said.

The two new studies, according to the CRN, will be submitted to various branches of government, including the legislature, where pending bills on protection against OSAEC are currently filed.

 
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