WINNIPEG, MB: The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is warning parents about an increasing and serious trend involving Canadian youth being extorted for money. In the last few weeks, the Canadian Centre’s Cybertip.ca program (Canada’s national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children) has seen a concerning rise in teenagers reporting issues surrounding the sharing of sexual images/videos with adults posing as teenagers. On platforms that allow users to communicate by video, offenders are secretly recording teenagers exposing themselves and then threatening to share the sexual content if they don’t pay money (often hundreds of dollars) to the individual.
In many incidents, youth are participating in this activity believing they are engaging with another young person. Connections first start out within social networking sites (e.g. Facebook) and then progress to live video feeds (e.g. Skype) where youth engage in sexual behaviours that are secretly recorded by offenders over webcam.
Anytime youth are using platforms that offer the ability to connect live via webcam, they must consider the risks. While many teens understand the dangers associated with recording and sharing sexual images and videos, they are not as aware of the risks associated with live video feeds. With relative ease over live streaming, anyone can capture a still image or video of a person sexually exposing themselves – all without the other person’s knowledge.
“Parents must have regular conversations with teens about the risks associated with engaging in sexual behaviour online and how videos and images can be used against them,” says Signy Arnason, Director of Cybertip.ca. “Live video streaming in combination with the sexual curiosity of youth makes them particularly vulnerable to being sextorted and coerced.”
Parents must be mindful that this can happen to any young person. In these situations, teens are often fearful of what may happen and unwilling to talk to their parents. Regular dialogue around this topic can mean the difference between whether or not a teen chooses to seek out parental support in situations where they are in over their heads.
“It is also important for parents to talk with teens about never complying with threats. These situations do not get resolved by complying and in fact, can make matters worse. Teens need to be explicitly told this,” says Arnason. “Parents also need to tell their kids that if something like this ever happens, that they need to come to them no matter what – and that together they will get through it.”
See our How to Talk to Youth about Online Extortion sheet for tips and more information on how to help youth dealing with extortion. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is strongly encouraging parents to take the time and learn more about ways to increase your teen’s safety online by visiting www.needhelpnow.ca. For other emerging issues facing young people, parents are also encouraged to sign up for Cybertip.ca Alerts at www.cybertip.ca.