Kitchener-Waterloo

Q & A: How youth can stay safe as they spend more time online

Local and provincial authorities are seeing a significant increase in the number of calls related to child sexual exploitation. Here's what to look out for.

Hear safety tips from Stephen Sauer, director of Cybertip.ca

Online predators may be "persistent or apply excessive pressure" on their victims, says Stephen Sauer, director of Cybertip.ca. (Voyagerix/Shutterstock)

Local and provincial authorities are seeing a significant increase in the number of calls related to child sexual exploitation.

That's because pandemic restrictions are pushing kids and youth online.

And with that, comes new dangers, says Stephen Sauer, director of Cybertip.ca with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

Sauer spoke to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's Craig Norris on The Morning Edition about what parents and children can to stay safe.

Q: Why are authorities seeing an increase in these sorts of calls?

Kids are engaged in online technologies a lot more now than they ever have been before. They're looking for social outlets. You know, during the pandemic, obviously, restrictions have been pretty high and they've been kept from social interactions … So, there's more prevalence of individuals who have sexual interest in children realizing this and utilizing technology to exploit children.

Q: You recently issued a warning about "cappers." Who are they?

Cappers are essentially individuals who have a sexual interest in children or who are looking to gain sexual material of a child in order to distribute that material or to gain … money from the child to extort them. So essentially what the cappers do is they record a live stream while in session with that child and they will get the child to engage in some sort of sexual activity or undress on camera. Then, they will send that video back to the child and request money or request further imagery through an extortion type of incident.

Q: What can parents or caregivers do to help their kids stay safe from cappers?

One is to kind of have an understanding of the technology that your kids are engaged in, look at the applications, try them out first before your kids get involved in them, understand how to set up the accounts on those systems and help your kids walk through setting up the accounts to ensure that their privacy is at the highest level.

And the other thing to do is to talk to kids about the risks of engaging in sexual activity, online streams or to share nudes. Once they have done that, they lose control over that … They don't know what's going to happen with that after the fact.

In terms of spotting red flag behaviours, one of the things that we talk to parents and youth about is looking at individuals who are persistent or apply excessive pressure to them. So, the conversation may be general at first, but then it quickly escalates where they're asking, you know, overly sexual or overly personal questions.

Q: Can you explain the relationship between child exploitation and human trafficking?

There is often a connection between the online space and human trafficking because human trafficking can occur in so many different forms. You see children who are sexually exploited online that the images of that sexual exploitation can then become trafficked online.

But also, if they are engaged in an exploitative incident … individuals who are exploiting them could engage other individuals to further exploit that youth. And so, you know, it becomes a trafficking incident through that respect. And then also, you know, when there's monetary aspects to that sexual exploitation online, there's a definite connection to the human trafficking aspect.

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