The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has joined hands with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP), and other child protection organizations to raise awareness about the online dangers the Filipino youth face today, particularly the risk of online sexual exploitation, during the Child Online Protection Summit 2017, held last November 23-24, 2017.

The two-day summit’s theme was “Enabling Dynamic Partnerships: The Role of Everyone to Protect Children and Young People Safe and Secure Online,’ highlighting the shared responsibility to protect children online.

Participants from various national government agencies, local government units, international organizations, businesses and communities, as well as members of the media and the academe, contributed to the discussion, sharing their insights and best practices towards developing child online safeguarding standards and mechanisms, as mandated in Section 11 of the RA 10929, also known as The Free Internet in Public Places Act.

In his presentation on the draft IRR, Assistant Secretary Alan Silor said that following the approval of the draft IRR, the DICT will come up with a child online safeguarding policy within one year from the effectivity of the law.

A series of presentations and panel discussions ensued, starting with the National Government, Local Government and Communities and International Organizations on Day 1.

The absence of COP centers and the insufficient number of social workers to respond to the growing reported cases of Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) are among the challenges hounding the current online safety landscape.

Wisit Atipayakoon from the ITU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific emphasized the need to define the COP landscape, “What are we protecting children from? We need to identify COP indicators and do more surveys.”

“There needs to be an understanding of what online sexual abuse does to children. We need to change parents’ understanding on what happens to their children,” Lotta Sylwander from UNICEF Philippines added.

The second day of the summit saw discussions on digital parenting, cybersafety education, media guidelines and the telco industry’s contributions to child online protection.
During one of the discussions, the role of the parents in protecting children online stood out.

Dr. Peachy Gonzales of The Rainbow Playroom said, “Parents must impose rules. Don’t be afraid to talk to your children about the Internet.”

In her presentation, Prof. Nina  Era of Reintegration for Care and Wholeness (RCW) Foundation said, “Parents need to be sensitive about the changes in their children’s behavior that may indicate that they are being victimized.”

The summit proved that the plight against online sexual exploitation of children is a national priority. While the national and local governments need to strengthen their efforts in addressing child online sexual abuse, it is crucial to tune in to families and communities with their greater influence to their children’s social development.

In her message, DICT Director Maria Teresa Magno-Garcia of the National ICT Governance Service said, “Our eyes have seen, our ears have heard the dark realities in the online world, and we must not stop at seeing and hearing, but we must start doing something about them both online and offline and, ultimately, we must start at HOME.”