‘Incredibly disturbing’: Online child sexual exploitation on the rise amid pandemic

WatchIt's a disturbing trend that's worsened during the pandemic — kids being sexually exploited online. Tahmina Aziz has more.

It’s a disturbing trend that’s worsened during the pandemic — kids being sexually exploited online.

Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting online child sexual abuse and exploitation, reports it noticed a 37 per cent increase in online sexual violence against Canadian youth within the last year.

Noni Classen, the director of education for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection finds the statistic concerning, and urges parents to protect their kids from the dangers of online predators.

“It’s very, incredibly disturbing,” she said, adding that the tactics used are now more aggressive than before.

“Individuals are threatening kids, essentially, to gain more content or threatening them for money,” she explained.

With kids more reliant on their devices and using them around the clock, Classen said this makes it challenging for parents who can’t supervise them all the time.

“It’s something that we would say is almost an urgent need to have conversations with kids around this, especially because we know the majority of kids that this is happening to aren’t telling anybody about it,” she said.

She explained that children may not want to report what’s happening to them to their parents because they’re afraid they’re going to get in trouble, they might be blamed for it, they don’t want to worry their parents, they won’t be taken seriously or their devices might be taken away, which they’re dependent on.

“Kids are online for everything now, right? Whether it’s for activities, they’ve been online for that; whether it’s for school, whether it’s been for leisure. Everything is online,” Classen said.

In Victoria, child abuse, both online and offline, has gotten so bad during the pandemic that dozens are on waiting lists waiting to receive from the Victoria Child Abuse Prevention & Counselling Centre.

“We expect a tsunami of cases our way because of the pandemic,” said the centre’s executive director Sandra Bryce.

She says 40 kids are on their mental health service waiting list and 100 are on their victim service and child advocate service waiting list.
Bryce also said online child exploitation is a global issue and it especially affects vulnerable children.

According to Cybertip.ca, there has been an 88 per cent jump in reports of sextortion and other online exploitation of youth.

It also said that 39 per cent of luring attempts reported in the last two years involved children 13 years old or under and about 25 per cent of parents report seeing inappropriate behaviour online aimed at their child.

“We don’t want to be scaring parents about this, but what we do want to do is stress the real critical need for people to be aware and understand,” said Classen.

“This is unwanted, unsolicited, it’s not consensual. It’s coercive. And it’s really online sexual violence,” she continued.

Kids of any gender, anywhere in the world, can fall victim and those targeting can be both adults or peers, according to Classen.

Parents and children are urged to visit cybertip.ca for more information and help.

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Tahmina AzizTahmina Aziz

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