Winnipeg, Canada — Reports of online sexual luring targeting Canadian children have risen to never-before-seen levels, according to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P). Over the last five years, Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting online child sexual abuse and exploitation, has seen its volume of luring reports grow from 220 in 2018 to 2,013 by the end of 2022, representing an 815 percent increase.
Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of Safer Internet Day and C3P is making parents aware of this online safety risk and calling on governments around the world to regulate technology companies to ensure children receive the same protections online as they do offline.
“This dramatic rise in online sexual luring should set off alarm bells for everyone. Social media platforms provide ill-meaning individuals with a direct and unfettered access to our children 24-7. Safer Internet Day is an opportunity to remind all Canadians that the online spaces our children occupy are inherently risky, and online harms often lead to physical-world harm,” says Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of C3P.
What is online luring?
Online luring is when someone (typically an adult, but not always) communicates with a child or youth through technology, like texting or chatting through an app, game or site, to make it easier to commit a sexual offence against them. Luring can involve a person asking, hinting at, or trying to convince the child or youth to send naked or semi-naked sexual pictures or videos. Luring can also lead to offenders manipulating children into meeting in person, where the child is sexually abused.
What can be done?
- Governments must pass regulations requiring industry to protect children online as they do offline. Technology companies cannot continue to operate platforms that lack age verification and allow unknown adults to access children in unsupervised spaces. We cannot continue to offload this responsibility solely on the shoulders of parents.
Parents will always have a role to play in keeping their kids safe online. Make talking to your child about online safety a regular part of your conversations. Cybertip.ca can help you start a conversation about online luring.
Tips for talking to youth:
- Explain what online luring is and how it happens.
- Ask your youth why they think this is a criminal code offence in Canada. Listen to their perspective and discuss the importance of laws to keep youth safe online.
- Teach them about red flag behaviors that signal a situation is unsafe.
- Discuss how to get out of conversations and/or online relationships when they feel uncomfortable. Discuss direct messaging (e.g., “I don’t want to” followed by deleting or blocking the person) and indirect messaging, such as making up excuses (e.g., “My mom checks my computer randomly and would ground me”).
- Emphasize the importance of getting help – coming to you or another safe adult or reaching out to needhelpnow.ca for help. Explain that if this has ever happened or does happen to them or someone they know, you want to know about and want to help them. This is too serious for youth to manage on their own; and the good thing is they’re never alone and it’s never too late to get help.
- Share a real case and, together, identify the red flag behaviours/tactics and discuss what the youth should do. Download How to Talk with Teens about Online Luring for more information and a real case example.
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