Eight out of 10 Filipino children are at risk of being victims of sexual abuse or bullying online, according to a recent study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
The Unicef-Ipsos study titled “Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online” explored the youth’s perspective on the risks they are facing in the digital world.
Based on an international poll among more than 10,000 18-year-olds from 25 countries, the study added that five in 10 Filipino children and adolescents think “friends participate in risky behaviors while using the internet.”
The report also found out that 67 percent of girls “strongly agreed” that they would be worried if they received sexual comments or requests over the internet, compared to 47 percent of boys.
Unicef said the Philippines has become a top global source of child pornography amid rising cases of livestream sexual abuse of webcam “show,” some cases of which involve parents as operators.
“We need to raise the awareness and vigilance of this issue so that parents and others understand that child abuse—in any form—is not just morally wrong, it is also extremely harmful to children’s health and development. Unfortunately, at the moment the situation is getting worse, not better,” said Lotta Sylwander, Unicef representative to the Philippines.
Unicef said the number of criminal cases involving livestream child abuse in the Philippines rose from 57 in 2013 to 89 in 2014 and 167 in 2015.
Unicef associate director for child protection Cornelius Williams said the study’s findings showed “how real the risk of online abuse is for girls and boys,” especially in an age when the internet has “revolutionized young people’s access to information.”
The agency vowed to “amplify the youth’s voice” in addressing online violence and exploitation, as it partnered with Child Rights Coalition Asia to produce materials by and for children on how to stay safe online.
Unicef also called on the national government to establish “coordinated responses” between criminal justice systems, law enforcement, child welfare, education, health, information and communication technology sectors and civil society “to better protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation.”
“When young people, governments, families, the ICT (information and communication technology) sector and communities work together, we are more likely to find the best ways to respond to online sexual abuse and exploitation, and send a strong message that confronting and ending violence against children online—indeed anywhere—is all of our business,” Williams said. RAM/rga