In the last six months sextortion of children jumped 56 per cent and online luring was up 43 per cent, according to Canada’s tipline to report online exploitation of children.
Overall, online child victimization increased 39 per cent in that same period.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which runs Cybertip.ca, said offenders have intensified their control tactics, which includes increasing the use of humiliation, and utilizing multiple accounts to target youth.
Erin Willmer, crisis support and sexual assault response team manager with the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, said more youth are contacting the local centre about online sexual abuse. It may not be a physical assault, but it still leaves deep emotional wounds.
“It would be sexual harassment which falls under sexual violence,” said Willmer, who recently she spoke with a girl whose image was pulled from her Tiktok video and was being used elsewhere.
She was not surprised that it’s a growing problem in Canada with more youth living their lives online since the pandemic struck.
“I’m hopeful that something can be done to protect our youth.”
On Thursday families met with the federal ministers of public safety, justice and Canadian heritage during a virtual roundtable hosted by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection which is calling on government to regulate the internet to keep Canadian children safe from online harm.
The centre said the families’ stories included child sexual abuse material, sextortion, online grooming and luring, doxing, and stalking. While these crimes were online, the day-to-day impacts to the victims and families are immeasurable.
“We have lost too many children and too many families have been devastated by the violence that occurs online. Their lives have been in the hands of tech companies for long enough. We must ensure that the protections that keep children safe in the offline world also exist in the digital one,” said the centre’s executive director Lianna McDonald in a statement.
The centre wants to see government introduce a regulatory framework to keep children safe, and technology companies held accountable for the products and services they put online.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti said he would continue supporting the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in its efforts to address this important issue.
“Keeping children safe requires action from all levels of government. Child sexual exploitation and abuse are heinous crimes that cause victims to suffer devastating and long-lasting consequences. We are committed to protecting the safety and security of children and survivors and advancing solutions to keep children safe from harmful online content,” Lametti said.