Thinking of posting your child’s pic? Save The Children warns of online challenges’ dangers

Are you thinking of posting a photo of your child online to show off their cuteness? You might want to hold back.

Following the rise of online challenges and hashtag trends on social media sites, child rights’ group Save the Children urged parents and guardians to protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation by practicing responsible internet use.

Several challenges have cropped up throughout quarantine that encourage users to post photos of their children along with a corresponding hashtag. Among them are the #DropYourBeautifulDaughterChallenge, #DropYourHandsomeSonChallenge and other related hashtags that have since gained at least half a million responses, according to Save The Children.

Other variations of the challenges have also gained traction online such as the #drop_ur_beautiful_daughter_challenge, which has at least 589,000 posts on Facebook as of Wednesday night, September 23.

Wilma Banaga, Child Protection Advisor of Save The Children Philippines, warned that parents and guardians must be careful about posting photos of their children online since these may be misused by others.

“Even if the images posted are not sexual in nature and content, there is still a risk that these can be used by online predators for untoward purposes,” said Atty Alberto Muyot, the Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines. 

“While we are proud of our children and would love to share beautiful pictures of them, let us be more cautious in joining online challenges that may jeopardize their welfare,” he added.

Not a safe space

A 2017 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found the Philippines as a top source of child pornography worldwide. This only worsened during lockdown.

Last May, the Department of Justice said it received almost 280,000 reports of online sexual exploitation of children from March to May, thrice as much as at least 76,000 reports from the same two-month period in 2019. (READ: Reports of sexual abuse of children triple during lockdown)

Tips to ensure safety

SaferKidsPH, an Australian government-led consortium involving Save the Children Philippines, the Asia Foundation, and UNICEF, lined up recommendations to help safeguard children’s safety on the internet. (READ: PH government, private sector launch joint campaign against online child sexual abuse)

To ensure one’s while using the internet, SaferKidsPH recommends people to do the following:

  1. Never share personal details or post sensitive information, including contact numbers, credit card numbers, addresses, and locations on social media platforms and to strangers
  2. Never meet with strangers you meet online. Parents or guardians must be informed right away as some people may not be who they say they are on social media.
  3. Increase safety and privacy settings of social media accounts

Muyot highlighted the need to build a safe digital platform for children where they can “learn, have fun and socialize with real friends, neighbors, and family during lockdown.”

Aside from the need of safe platforms, Save The Children also stressed parents' roles in helping their children better understand how they can protect themselves online.

“The long period of quarantine provides parents and guardians more time to educate their children on how they can protect themselves online, which also means they should also be knowledgeable on the safe use of the internet and social media,” Banaga added. – with reports from Liana Apostol/Rappler.com