AS physical and social interactions have adjusted to help stop the spread of COVID-19, more people, including children have turned to online activities. Surrey RCMP would like to remind parents and guardians to take measures to protect their children from online predators.
Over the past three years, the Surrey RCMP Special Victims Unit has seen an increase in the number of child pornography related reports rising from 55 reports in 2017, to 122 reports in 2019. There has also been a persistent number of reports related to child luring, with 19 reports in 2017, 16 in 2018, and 18 in 2019.
In some cases, children and young people are lured into exposing themselves in photos, videos, or on live webcams, where screenshots are then taken of them. The perpetrators of these crimes often use the threat of exposing the nude images to the child’s family and friends, to extort more photos, videos or to lure the child into other sexual activity.
Child luring often comes as a result of a sexual predator engaging a child or young person in an online relationship, gaining their trust, and convincing them to meet in person to engage in sexual activity. Sexual predators are experts at convincing children and young people to participate in activity that would otherwise be out of character for the child. They do so through a process called grooming.
Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Groomers may also build a relationship with the young person’s family or friends to make them seem trustworthy or authoritative.
“Children and young people can be especially vulnerable to exploitation and luring because they are unaware of the potential for predatory sexual behaviour,” said Staff Sergeant Lyndsay O’Ruairc of the Surrey RCMP Vulnerable Persons Section. “With the risk for grooming by pedophiles and child pornographers, children rely on their parents and caregivers to be a first line of defense against hidden dangers online.”
A measure of healthy vigilance can go a long way to keep the children and young people in your family safe online. Here are some tips and considerations:
* Keep an open dialogue.
Let your kids know they can come to you if they feel uncomfortable with an online interaction or if they shared an image online they regret. Visit NeedHelpNow.ca for what to do if a sexual picture or video has been shared online.
* Cameras and webcams.
Do you know what photos your child is taking? Parents may consider setting up “sharing” between all family devices for photos and downloads so they can easily view how cameras are being used.
* Video game consoles and multiplayer platforms.
Who is playing and communicating/interacting with your kids while they are gaming?Some of the popular gaming and messaging apps connect youth with complete strangers.
* Know what apps your child has downloaded.
Are there messaging, chat or webcam features? Is there an ability for strangers to connect with them? Sign up for Cybertip.ca alerts to receive the latest trends.
* Report suspicious online activity to police.
When in doubt, give your local police a call. In Surrey, you can call the Surrey RCMP non-emergency number at 604-599-0502 to report or, online through cybertip.ca.
Internet safety can be an overwhelming topic for many parents. However, it’s so important to not only start the conversation but keep it going. Not sure how? Check out ProtectKidsOnline.ca. You can also keep up with the latest online trends among youth by signing up for Cybertip alerts. https://www.cybertip.ca/app/en/signup