(Red Deer, Alta.) – Red Deer RCMP and the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre (CACAC) are encouraging parents and guardians to learn more about the risks children face online.
Online activity can open children and youth up to sexual exploitation, and it is important that guardians understand the risks so they can help children avoid this growing issue. Red Deer RCMP have seen a concerning increase in sexual exploitation and illegal image sharing in recent months.
Commonly, online predators will pose as a peer of the potential victim by adding many members of their friend group, sports team, etc., to appear legitimate within that social circle. Once they’ve infiltrated a group online, they may spend weeks or months communicating and forming a relationship with the victim. This is often the point at which sexual images and videos are sent. After receiving these images, the predator demands money to stop them from releasing the images to the victim’s friends and family.
“We want to encourage youth to never send sexual images. Once they are out there, you have no control over where those photos end up,” says Cpl. Mike Evans, with the Red Deer RCMP’s Youth and Community Action Team. “Unfortunately, we often deal with very upset parents and children where images have been sent and then circulated beyond the intended recipient.”
Sexting can have long-term negative consequences, including bullying, isolation, embarrassment, and the development of inappropriate relationships. Additionally, it is illegal for anyone to produce, distribute or possess sexual images of children. This means that youth under 18 could face criminal charges if they create or distribute sexual images of themselves, or forward images they have received to others.
There are many things children can do to protect themselves from being targeted, including:
- Never add someone you don’t know to your social media,
- Use privacy settings to require people to request before following your profile,
- Never share personal, identifiable information,
- Never send or post explicit imagery or videos
“If you’re a child or youth that has received nude or explicit imagery, it’s okay to come forward to a trusted adult. Don’t panic, don’t respond, and don’t share the imagery or video to other peers,” says Dylan Rambow with the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.
If you suspect that a child is being sexually exploited online, or you have been victimized, please report it to the Red Deer RCMP at 403-406-2200, and report it to www.cybertip.ca. To learn more about supporting your child or to access support resources, visit the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre website at www.centralalbertacac.ca.