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Predators now use emojis to victimize kids online | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing


Parents, guardians urged to be more vigilant as emojis can mean different meanings

While using emojis makes messages more fun and engaging, a children’s rights organization warned that these seemingly harmless and “cute” pictograms are now being used by predators to victimize children online. 

Screenshot from Bahay Tuluyan Emoji Friends Video

“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?” Bahay Tuluyan Executive Director Catherine Scerri said.

Bahay Tuluyan, a children’s rights organization, was founded on the premise of fulfilling Filipino children’s rights by preventing and responding to abuse and violence against them.

The organization warned parents and guardians to be more vigilant when allowing children to go online as they might be falling prey to online predators by luring them using emojis.

“Every day, around 500,000 predators try to befriend kids online via social media and gaming sites,” Scerri said. “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,” she added.

Raising awareness

Recently, the non-profit group also launched a short online video that explains just how predators are currently doing this—through the use of emojis.

“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,” Scerri said.

The video was created in partnership with multi-awarded communications agency, TBWA\Santiago Mangada Puno.

Through the video, the group aims to help decrease cases of child sexual abuse by educating parents about this new trend.

The group stressed that “reflecting what’s actually happening in the real world, it depicts how predators are able to use vulnerable moments in kids’ lives to take advantage of them.”

In the video, one scene shows how–after being bullied–a kid is befriended by an “eggplant emoji.”

Another scene also showed how a seemingly innocent livestream 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,” the group said.

Screenshot from Bahay Tuluyan Emoji Friends Video.png
Screenshot from Bahay Tuluyan Emoji Friends Video

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.

Hotspot for online child abuse

Citing data from the Scale of Harm prevalence study by the International Justice Mission (IJM) and the University of Nottingham Rights Lab, the group noted that in 2022 alone, “roughly 1 in every 100 children were trafficked to produce sexual exploitation material (CSEM) for profit.”

The group also cited data from the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) noting that in the same year, it 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,” the group said.

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 (P5,000,000).

Taking a more proactive approach

Scerri also noted that an official of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center revealed last year that the Philippines ranks second in online sexual abuse of children.

“That’s how grave our situation is,” she said. “It’s about time we take a more proactive approach,” she added.

Given this, Scerri urged the public to report to the authorities such as the Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children Protection Center for possible cases of abuse against children

“We’d like to call on all parents and guardians to be more vigilant,” Scerri said. “Educate yourself about the languages that predators use to communicate with kids, and once spotted, please report any cases of sexual child offense,” she added.



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