That the Philippines is a top source of global child pornography is not surprising, but our prior knowledge of it does not make the issue any less alarming, or urgent.
According to a Unicef report, Children in a Digital World, four in five Filipino children are at risk of online sexual abuse or bullying.
The pervasiveness of Internet technology—one in three global users is a child—has led to the increased exposure of young people to this danger.
It’s a billion-dollar industry, said Unicef Country Representative Lotta Sylwander. “Filipino children are the ones being traded and exploited online. Children who are made to perform sex acts in front of a web camera will never get their childhood back.”
According to the report, online sexual exploitation of children is a leading form of cybercrime. And while these activities may begin online, they could easily cross over to physical prostitution.
The government and non-government organizations are doing their bit to stop these dehumanizing crimes against children, but it is impossible to keep track of all potentially exploitative activities especially those done in small, undetectable scales.
A social services official, in her defense of this administration’s war against drugs, once thought she was being witty when she said foreigners critical of the campaign should just go back to doing child porn. That is what they do best anyway, she said. But the remark is not witty—is crude and insensitive, because it acknowledges a gruesome reality but makes light of it.
Predators are everywhere and now, more than ever, our children are at risk. Parents cannot be around all the time to keep watch over what their children are doing online—and nor should they. Instead, elders —parents, relatives or teachers —should consistently warn the young on what is acceptable and not acceptable online behavior. They should be made aware of the dangers out there, and enabled to protect themselves, or seek help when they feel threatened.