/ 11 February 2021

THE RISK of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children has increased amid the pandemic, a children’s group warned.

Save the Children Philippines said this trend could be associated with the “deepening poverty.”

This prompted the group to drum up public awareness on this menace on Safer Internet Day for Children in the Philippines.

This year’s theme is “Bagong Normal: Ligtas na Internet for All.”

The campaign calls on the public and private stakeholders to make the internet a safer and better place for all, especially for children and young people.

Atty. Alberto Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines, said that the pandemic is no longer 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 said.

He called on 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.

The Department of Justice, citing data from the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said cases of online sexual abuse in the Philippines increased by 264.6 percent or 202,605 more 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.

Child Protection Advisor of Save the Children Philippines Wilma Banaga said parents and guardians have the responsibility to protect children from any form of abuse and exploitation.

“Parents and other adults who are taking care of children should provide the necessary support and guidance to help protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation particularly now that they are increasingly going online because of the pandemic,” Banaga said.