As the country is closed for what’s become the biggest pandemic in world history, COVID-19, school closings impose a serious threat to children’s safety in more ways than health.
According to John Tanagho, the field office director for the International Justice Mission in the Philippines, which is the epicenter of online sexual abuse of children, “Europol, the U.K.’s National Crime Agency, the Swedish Police Authority and others have already seen an increase in online child sexual exploitation since COVID-19 lockdowns,”.
“We’re talking about on-demand, child sexual abuse and exploitation that is being livestreamed from traffickers in the Philippines to child sex offenders around the world, primarily in Western countries,” he says. “The sex offenders go online and they connect with these traffickers and then they’ll direct them and pay them to sexually abuse children of specific ages in specific ways and to livestream that abuse.”
Tanagho adds, “They use the same platforms that the rest of the world use to communicate with friends, family and coworkers.”
There is a significantly higher risk of child abuse at this time according to Advocates in other Southeast Asian nations such as Cambodia and Thailand.
“Children are more at home, therefore they[are] using the Internet more,” she says, “and predators can be at home more as well and definitely, you know, soliciting [grooming] more.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this issue applies to the children in the U.S. as well as more predators are out seeking children to prey on and exploit.
The danger extends to the United States as well. Last month, the FBI warned that COVID-19 school closings, and an increase in unsupervised internet use would lead children to spend more time on the Internet, raising the risk of abuse.