MANILA— As more Filipino children go online with distance learning and social media during the pandemic, the youth are stepping in to make sure they themselves guard against abuses in these platforms.
A group of children and youth leaders in Cagayan De Oro City joined the global commemoration of the Safer Internet Day on Tuesday by launching a month-long campaign to raise public awareness on online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC).
Dubbed #OSECWarriorsCDO, the campaign hopes to tap the voices of young people within their communities to ensure internet safety for children and help survivors of online sexual exploitation.
In 2020, the Philippines was cited as a global hotspot for child sexual exploitation online by the International Justice Mission aid group based on a 7-year study.
Reported incidents of OSEC in the country nearly tripled during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, according to the justice department.
In a series of workshops, participants learned to use the internet to their benefit through stories relatable to children.
This involved training in different communication means such as mobile photography and basic videography.
Shaidy, 17, one of the participants, said creative visual communication such as drawing could be more effective in relaying the dangers of going online.
“As a youth, a lot of us are not aware, especially clicking all the time without knowing the context. Providing a short information through relaying the message to my fellow youths is a stepping stone to help them become aware,” she said.
For 20-year-old Erika, another youth leader, it is important the children they would reach out to would get that message clearly to motivate them to also share their thoughts.
“In video and photography, living in the digital era which we are exposed in our generation... Through that, it’s important we can use this to promote and document to encourage other people to help our advocacy and showing what we have and what we do,” she said.
The group also joined sessions on socio-emotional learning and mental health and psychosocial support to prepare for the campaign.
The workshops were sponsored by children’s advocacy group ChildFund Philippines and local civil society partner Kaabag sa Kalambuan pinaagi sa Kabtangan sa Katilingban (KKKK) as part of the initiative Project Children AWARE (Children promoting for Advocacy to Work together Against the Rise of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children).
The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Manila funds Project Children AWARE, which is implemented in Cagayan De Oro by ChildFund, KKKK, and the Xavier Science Foundation.