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'Children Should Never Be Sexualized,' What We Can Learn From Donnalyn's Baby-Themed Birthday Photoshoot
PHOTO BY INSTAGRAM /DONNA, SCREENSHOT FROM MANILA BULLETIN FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Over the weekend, a mommy friend sent me a screenshot of a grown-up woman wearing a pink onesie and posing like a cute baby. There's also a photo of her imitating a cake smash, but wearing only a bib as a top.

    The woman in the photo was 28-year-old Donnalyn Bartolome, a vlogger with a total of 30 million followers on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

    As a mom of a toddler, there was something off about it. It reminded me of the pictures my husband and I took every month to celebrate our dear daughter's milestones when she was still a baby. We would take our child's 'flat lay' photos every month to document how cute she's become and how much she's grown. That's it. That's the intent.

    But for an adult woman to portray a baby as sexy is just so wrong. Children, especially babies, should never be sexualized. Netizens thought the same, and called out Donnalyn for her 'disturbing' and 'sick' photos, saying it feeds on the fantasies of online predators. 

    Dr. Rica Cruz, a psychologist and sex therapist, shared her thoughts about it.

    "That photoshoot of a grown woman expressing her sexuality wearing baby clothes complete with baby paraphernalia is an example of sex positivity gone wrong. There is what we call "age-appropriate sex education" people. Please be appropriate. Even if it's just for clout.

    She emphasized, "ESPECIALLY if it's just for clout. Be appropriate. Period. No erase."

    Dyan Gayas, a newborn, baby, and family photographer and a mom of two said, "At first I found it [the photos] funny because the poses she did were what I usually ask the kids to do, except the sexy poses."

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    A member of the Smart Parenting Mom Squad, Dyan adds, "However, it encourages pedophilic behavior. It's like portraying a pedophile’s point of view in kids."

    Donnalyn took her post down a few hours after. She also posted an apology saying it was an honest mistake, "It was never my intention to enable one of the most horrifying acts here on Earth."

     

    PHOTO BY SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK /DONNALYN

     

    As a content creator with millions of followers, Dr. Rica hopes that celebrities will learn from Donnalyn's mistake.

    "I believe that celebrities and influencers need to be responsible for what they post - think 10000x about its effects and not just the clout that they will get," the sex educator told Smart Parenting.

    Online sexual exploitation

    A study released in 2020 found that the prevalence rate of online child sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) in the Philippines has more than tripled. From 43 out of every 10,000 internet protocol (IP) addresses used for child exploitation in 2014, it became 149 out of 10,000 in 2017.

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    In the 2021 report released by UNICEF on OSAEC, there is a need to spread public awareness across schools, communities, churches, and families on proper internet use, as well as the nature of OSAEC and its impacts on the child, the family, and the community.

    Celebrities and influencers can use their platforms to raise awareness about these issues, and not promote what causes it.

    Donnalyn said, "Almost a million people across socmed platforms thought of it light and funny because they know my personality and didn’t look at it that way hence our initial reaction to the idea was the same. but upon reading other people’s perspectives, I completely agree. I feel terrible, sick to my stomach, and had disturbing flashbacks I’d rather not say."

    What parents can do to protect children from online exploitation

    “Online sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a silent pandemic that has permanent, and devastating effects on children’s mental health and psychosocial well-being,” said Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines.

    Wilma Banaga, Child Protection Advisor of Save the Children Philippines, adds that parents, guardians, and other relatives must understand that they have the responsibility to meet the needs of children and to protect them from any form of abuse and exploitation.

    1. Think before you post.

    Anything that you post online is for public consumption. Before you post any information or photo online, make sure that it won't compromise any information about your child or your family. Otherwise, keep your social media accounts private.

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    2. Avoid joining social media challenges that involve sharing photos of your children

    In 2020, authorities warned parents from participating in social media challenges like the Drop Your Daughter Pic Challenge. Whether the photo looks harmless, it could still be exploited online.

    3. Know where to report sexual abuse cases

    In 2021, ECPAT Philippines, in partnership with the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) launched eProtectKids, the Philippines’ first global internet hotline against Child Sexual Abuse Materials (CSAM). 

    The public can anonymously report a Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) to eProtectKids by logging on to ecpat.org.ph/report and pasting the URL of the content. They may also email report@ecpat.org.ph

    You may also contact the Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center or any local police.

    • LUZON: 0945 863 22 35 or (02) 2 420 6460
    • VISAYAS: (032) 410 84 83
    • MINDANAO: 0928 604 6425 or 0917 180 6037

    "Thank you to everyone who let me know, especially those who did it so kindly, you’re the type of people who help me become a better person every day as I hold the responsibility of influencing millions. It’s not easy.. but I’ll do my best," Donnalyn said. 

    Help raise awareness against sexual abuse! Plus ways to protect your child, here.

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