“Did you know that there is a very high probability that your kid has talked to or is talking to an online predator and you’re not aware of it?”
This is what Catherine Scerri, Executive Director of children’s rights organization Bahay Tuluyan wants parents to know. Founded on the premise of fulfilling Filipino children’s rights by preventing and responding to abuse and violence against children, the non-profit group recently launched a short online video that explains just how predators are currently doing this—through the use of emojis.
“Every day, around 500,000 predators try to befriend kids online via social media and gaming sites,” Scerri adds. “They pretend to be kids and use emojis as a way to get close our children and abuse them; get images of their private parts or even get them to perform sexual acts. This is why we came up with this campaign. We want parents to be aware of this very real danger so that they may take necessary actions to prevent or properly respond to it.”
The video was created in partnership with multi-awarded communications agency, TBWA\ Santiago Mangada Puno. Ultimately, it aims to help decrease cases of child sexual abuse by educating parents of this new trend. Reflecting what’s actually happening in the real world, it depicts how predators are able to use vulnerable moments in kids’ life to take advantage of them. One scene shows how–after being bullied–a kid is befriended by an eggplant emoji. Another one showcases how a seemingly innocent live stream can serve as an avenue for perpetrators to befriend unsuspecting kids.
Emojis were originally created to make communicating with friends and family online a lot more fun, but through time, these icons have been given different meanings. For instance, the eggplant emoji is now used to refer to the male genitalia, the peach is now usually used to refer to buttocks, corn as a substitute for porn, and sweat drops can now be used to express orgasm.
PH a Hotspot for Child Abuse Online
According to an article released last September, the Scale of Harm prevalence study by International Justice Mission (IJM) and the University of Nottingham Rights Lab estimates that in 2022 alone, roughly 1 in every 100 children were trafficked to produce sexual exploitation material (CSEM) for profit.
Additionally, just this month, Executive Director Undersecretary Angelo Tapales of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) reported that in the same year, they received 18,513 cases of violations involving child abuse, rape and acts of lasciviousness as provided under Republic Act 7610.
Sexual offense against children, may it be online or in person, is a very serious crime. In the Philippines, those who are found guilty of the act can face life imprisonment and a fine of not less than five million pesos (PhP5,000,000.00).
“An official of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center revealed last year that our country ranks second in online sexual abuse of children. That’s how grave our situation is. It’s about time we take a more proactive approach. We’d like to call on all parents and guardians to be more vigilant. Educate yourself about the languages that predators use to communicate with kids, and once spotted, please report any cases of sexual child offense to PNP Women and Children Protection Center by calling 09197777377,” Scerri ends.