In a recent report, the global online charity group Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) declared that 2021 was the worst year on record for child sexual abuse online as lockdowns saw younger children being targeted by internet groomers. Last year, the IWF took action against 252,000 websites globally that contained unsafe images and videos for children.
Protecting children online, particularly from the incidence of online sexual abuse takes more than just knowledge about technology – knowing about your kids is more important.
In a webinar following the MOA signing between leading fiber broadband provider Converge ICT Solutions Inc. and child rights protection agency, the Stairway Foundation Inc., and the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP), panelists agreed that the quality of the relationship between parents and their children is the most important safeguard from online predators.
These panelists from Converge, Stairway, and the IACACP agree that parents’ relationship with their kids can be helped by:
Having Open Conversations
Parents should make their children feel as if they can talk to them about anything under the sun – especially when there are situations that endanger them. This openness will start the conversation on what should and shouldn’t be done online.
“If you want to protect children as parents, look at parenting in general. Don’t be concerned that the digital divide between generations is too big – it’ll always depend on having a good relationship with kids and having open conversations,” says Child Protection Specialist from Stairway Mr. Ysrael Diloy.
“Ensuring the safety of your children online starts with setting the right family values. We, as parents, can monitor their activities without smothering them. But this is pointless if we do not teach them what’s harmful, to begin with,” shares Converge Chief Technology Officer Ronald Brusola.
Using Your Time Online to Bond
“Parents can struggle with how fast technology evolves – so why not reach out to kids to ask for their help in navigating the internet? In that way, it becomes a bonding experience with them, and at the same time, a learning experience on how your kids spend their time online,” says Interagency Council Against Child Pornography officer Mr. Christian Bioc.
Cyberspace can be a platform to bring parents and children together, may it be in watching movies, playing online arcades, or doing online gimmicks such as viral dances or challenges.
“Gawing bonding opportunity ang pag-navigate sa online environment. Malalaman niyo kung papaano ang paggamit ng anak nila ng Internet, at the same time, matututo kayo sa teknolohiya,” he notes. [Rough translation: Turn navigating the online environment into a bonding opportunity. You’ll learn how your kids use the Internet and you’ll learn about technology at the same time.]
Investing in the Right Online Tools
For tech-savvy parents, being proactive by using online filtering tools can also be useful in preempting unsafe online interactions.
“Aside from having an open relationship with kids, parents can invest in blocking software for their home network. They may install filtering software,” adds Mr. Benjamin Azada, Converge Chief Strategy Officer.
Mr. Jeff Briones, Converge Head of Global Network Operations Center, shares that technology can be an ally in the protection of children. “Technology can empower parents as well in protecting children so it helps to be savvy. As an ISP, we have employed safety mechanisms to ensure that our network blocks these unsafe and illicit websites.”
“Whatever approach you may take with children, what matters is to get involved in their online activities and go the extra mile to know your child in the digital world,” concludes Ms. Jay-Anne Encarnado, Converge Corporate Communications and PR Director.
Converge ICT Solutions Inc. has invested over Php100 million to intensify its network security systems as part of efforts to help make the internet a safer place, especially for children.
To date, over 20,000 websites featuring child sexual abuse imagery have been blocked on the Converge network, effectively curbing the heavy traffic to these illicit sites that have been averaging 1,200 hits per minute, according to internal data.
Converge also launched its own information and awareness campaign called “Undo Filter” to enjoin its employees and third-party stakeholders to be vigilant on their children’s activities online.
Two video materials were released as part of the “Undo Filter” campaign, portraying potential scenarios of real-life situations children find themselves in.
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