Winnipeg, MB — The Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) is calling attention to the alarming increase in the online victimization of children reflected in today’s release of Statistics Canada’s police‑reported crime data.
The 2020 statistics, which includes the first nine months of the COVID‑19 pandemic, paints a disturbing picture of trends in violence against children. Notably, when compared to the previous five‑year average, the new data reveals:
- Making, or distribution of child pornographyGo to footnote * incidents have increased by 1,556 cases, representing a 27 percent increase compared to 2019. This is an 89 percent increase in incidents compared to the previous five‑year average.
- Possession of, or accessing child pornographyGo to footnote * incidents have increased by 622 cases, representing a 19 percent increase compared to 2019. This is an 48 percent increase in incidents compared to the previous five‑year average.
- Luring a child via a computer incidents have increased by 244 cases, representing a 15 percent increase compared to 2019. This is an 37 percent increase in incidents compared to the previous five‑year average.
- Non‑consensual distribution of intimate images incidents have increased by 229 cases, representing a 11 percent increase compared to 2019. This is an 80 percent increase in incidents compared to the previous five‑year average.
- * “Child pornography” is the term used in the Criminal Code of Canada. The term “child sexual abuse material” more clearly describes the assaults taking place against children and is a more accurate term for images and videos depicting this form of abuse. ↩
These police‑reported figures mirror the distressing patterns observed by Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline to report online child sexual abuse and exploitation, which is operated by C3P.
During the first two weeks of the pandemic, reports to Cybertip.ca — which included children receiving sexual messages or images/videos from adults online, being coerced into sending sexual images/videos or engaging in sexual activity, or having sexual images/videos of themselves shared online — increased by 40 per cent. By the end of the 2020 fiscal year, that figure rose to 106 per cent.
“As COVID‑19 gripped the country, families found themselves at home, facing virtual classrooms, unrestricted online access, and with it all, increased risk to children. Without question, it is the most vulnerable members of our communities who have been disproportionately harmed by the abrupt change in their social environments imposed by the pandemic,” says Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of C3P.
During 2020, the tipline issued a Cybertip.ca Alert based on the discussions analysts were seeing on the dark web amongst child sex offenders, who saw this as an unprecedented time to mobilize and share strategies for targeting and abusing children.
“Anytime children are able to intersect with adults on a platform or service, there is inherently a greater risk of abuse. While we continue to demand that technology companies vastly improve the safety of their services, it’s important that parents be aware of these risks,” says McDonald.
Online safety tips for families
- Have regular conversations about online safety. This includes talking about the online games your kids are playing, the apps they’re using, and who they are chatting with. For tips on how to get the discussion started, visit protectkidsonline.ca for age‑appropriate ideas.
- Set the expectation you will monitor your child’s online activities, and work together to establish guidelines around texting, social media, live streaming, and gaming, such as who your child can do these things with and on what apps.
For younger children, help them create their login, password, and profile information ensuring it is set to private. For tweens and teens, help set up privacy settings in apps/
games/ social accounts. With a private account, users can approve or deny followers/ friends, restrict who can view their content and profile information, and limit incoming messages to followers/ friends only. Work together to decide who to accept as followers/ friends.
- Tell your child that if they come across something or someone while online that makes them feel uncomfortable, they can tell you without fear of getting in trouble or losing digital privileges. Remind them their safety is what is most important to you.
- If you see, read, or hear anything sexual from an adult towards your child online, report it to Cybertip.ca.
Remember, there’s no amount of online filters or safety controls that can replace parental supervision and communication.
Visit protectkidsonline.ca for more information on kids’ online interests, the potential risks, and points to help parents talk about online safety with kids no matter what their age.