FEBRUARY 9, 2021, is Safer Internet Day, a day of action calling for people everywhere to join to make the internet a safer place for everyone, and especially for children and young people.
It is an unfortunate reality that internet and social media applications are often used as tools of child exploitation by people initially 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.
Surrey RCMP is the first detachment in British Columbia with its own Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit. This team of specially trained investigators is dedicated to protecting children from harm and vigorously pursuing those who access, distribute and manufacture child sexual exploitation material.
“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 ICE to safeguard your child against online exploitation:
Talk to your kids about online grooming
Predators use online grooming to befriend a child or youth, to build trust and manipulate them. Children and youth can be manipulated into sending sexual images or videos, or 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 at 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.
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.