AS the school year comes to an end and summer break begins, kids have more free time to be on their electronic devices and Surrey RCMP want to remind parents of the importance of discussing internet safety with their children as well as monitoring their online activity to minimize their risk of being exploited.
It is an unfortunate reality that internet and social media applications are often used as tools of child exploitation by people posing as children themselves. This can be a frightening prospect for parents and caregivers. However, there are tools and resources available to help protect children and youth from online predators, the RCMP points out.
“It is important for parents and caregivers to teach their loved ones that once an image or video has been sent to someone on social media or in a chat, they no longer have control over who sees it next,” says Cpl. Danielle Pollock of the Surrey RCMP Internet Child Exploitation Unit. “Education is the best tool against online exploitation.”
Here are some recommendations from Surrey RCMP Internet Child Exploitation Unit (ICE) to safeguard your child against online exploitation:
Talk to your kids about online grooming
Grooming is a gradual process that usually involves the offender posing as a person with similar interests to establish a relationship with a child via social media, chat rooms or while gaming online. A child may reveal real life issues such as problems with friends or family or troubles at school which can make them vulnerable to an online ‘friend’ who ‘gets them’. The offender works to develop an emotional connection with the child, which feels like real friendship to the child.
Once the relationship is established, predators use the trust to manipulate the child. Children and youth can be manipulated into sending sexual images or videos, performing sexual acts, and even lured into situations where hands-on abuse occurs. Through grooming, predators are successful in convincing kids to do things that would otherwise be out of character for them, because the child believes a genuine friendship has developed.
It is important to speak to children, find out whom they interact with online, and remind them about the risk of communicating with strangers. More information on grooming can be found cybertip.ca.
Educate your kids on common sex-related extortion tactics
As a trust building tactic, predators commonly use pre-recorded bait videos of a teenage girl or boy engaging in sexually explicit behavior such as removing their clothes, and request the teen to do the same over live-stream. The predator will then immediately notify the teen that the live-stream was recorded, and threaten to expose the photos unless a sum of money is paid or additional sexual content is provided.
Keep up with the latest online trends among youth by signing up for Cybertip alerts.
sharing on electronic devices
Do you know what photos your child is taking? Parents may consider setting up
sharing between all family electronic devices for photos and downloads so they can easily view how cameras are being used.
Review the apps used by your child
How many apps is your child using? Are there messaging, chat or webcam features? Is there an ability for strangers to connect with them? Consider restricting app use to only apps that have special safety features for children such as parental monitoring capabilities or parental alert/notification functions triggered by the exchange of inappropriate content.
Be SMART Online this summer:
- SAFE: Keep Safe by being careful not to give out personal information while chatting or gaming.
- MEET: Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous and should only be done with a trusted adult present.
- ACCEPTING: Accepting emails, messages or opening pictures or texts from people you don’t know can lead to problems.
- RELIABLE: Information you find on the internet may not be true or someone may be lying to you about who they are. Make certain you know it is factual and can be relied on before you act on it.
- TELL: Tell your parent or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried and tell if something is happening to a friend online that is not right.
If you believe your child is being exploited or lured, make sure your child is safe by stopping the interactions, and call police immediately. Do not confront the predator, this will only lead to the destruction of evidence and the predator will simply move on to their next victim.
In Surrey, you can call the Surrey RCMP non-emergency number at 604-599-0502 to make a report – or online through cybertip.ca.
For more information on how to protect your kids from online exploitation check out ProtectKidsOnline.ca.