Online child luring reports skyrocketed in Canada in past 5 years, protection agency says
Cybertip.ca reports jumped to 2,013 in 2022 from 220 in 2018, according to latest data
The number of online sexual luring cases involving children has skyrocketed in the past five years, and that comes as no surprise to a national agency tracking trends.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection suggests the number of luring reports that have come in through its online child sex abuse and exploitation tipline, Cybertip.ca, has jumped to 2,013 in 2022 from 220 in 2018.
Those unprecedented levels represent a nearly 10-fold increase.
"It's pretty troubling from our perspective that we have had such a dramatic increase," said Stephen Sauer, director for the national organization.
He said the dramatic increase has something to do with offenders having near unfettered access to children, who are using online platforms more and more.
The amount of time children spent on digital devices during the pandemic is also a factor, he said.
"Kids were at home alone on apps," Sauer told Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Tuesday.
"There's also a greater normalization of the use of different chat technologies and apps, and offenders out there realize that they have this avenue to kids that they've never had before."
Luring is happening most often on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, Sauer says.
Nearly 80 per cent of sextortion reports — when an unknown individual asks a youth to engage in sexual acts or share nude or semi-nude images — stem from encounters on those two platforms.
"And we certainly see other social media companies involved in it," Sauer said.
The announcement comes on the 20th annual Safer Internet Day aimed at raising awareness about the "inherently risky" online spaces children occupy.
Sauer says he would like to see governments regulate online companies with a focus on child safety.
One way to do that would be to compel companies to have mandatory age verification safeguards, according to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
Parents can help by teaching children about how to spot suspicious behaviour, including when someone persistently asks for photos or videos, or accounts connecting with children that don't have any followers or friends on social media.
There are resources at Cybertip.ca parents can use to help have those conversations.
Parents who encounter suspicious activity in connection with the account of one of their children can also reach out to Cybertip.ca
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