Global experts in online safety and members of ChildFund’s WEB Safe & Wise Children’s Advisory Council, are gathered in Manila today to discuss the most pressing dangers to children online as well as solutions that can be adopted to ensure every child can engage and connect safely online. UNICEF and the International Justice Mission have identified the Philippines as the center of child sex abuse materials production.
High-level government officials in the Philippines, including Senator Risa Hontiveros and Undersecretary Angelo Tapales from the Council for the Welfare of Children are part of a speaking roster that also features Dr. Najat
Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Violence against Children; Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner; Dr. Mikiko Otani, Immediate Past Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; and officials from UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Office, ECPAT Philippines, International Justice Mission, ChildFund, and members of the tech industry including CleanDNS. Members of the Children’s Advisory Council in attendance included young people from Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, México, Mozambique, Paraguay, Philippines, Uganda and Vietnam.
An estimated 750,000 individuals are looking to connect with children online for sexual purposes at any one time— whether on social media, online gaming sites, or via email. Reports of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM) have increased 15,000% over the last 15 years. In 2022, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) analyzed over 32 million reports of CSAM received from across the globe and reported an 87% increase from 2019. Last year, 9 in 10 victims were between the ages of 3 and 12 years.
In the Philippines, the harm is so prevalent, UNICEF and the International Justice Mission (IJM) identified the country as the center of child sex abuse materials production. In the recent Scale of Harm report by the IJM, researchers found nearly half a million Filipino children in 2022 were trafficked online via live streaming, often by relatives or people they know, in order to produce child sexual exploitation material.
The Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) in the Philippines promises to work closely with other government agencies to address online child sexual abuse and exploitation. In a recent interview, Undersecretary Angelo Tapales said his department is working with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as with the private sector to curb the violence and sexual abuse against children.
All members of the Council play a key role in determining the planning and implementation of WEB Safe & Wise activities. The platform provides a range of resources for young people as well as adults, including guidance on Talking to Young People About Online Safety, definitions related to online safety, and key do’s and don’ts when engaging online.
ChildFund urges the creation of governmental bodies, the criminalization of online child exploitation, and the allocation of resources for parent and caregiver education. Technology partners are strongly encouraged to co- create standardized industry safety codes to protect young users from inappropriate content across all platforms.