Winnipeg, Canada — Over the past year, Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting online child sexual abuse and exploitation, has seen a 37% increase in the overall online victimization of youth. Even more concerning is the intensity of tactics being used to target youth, which range from repeated unsolicited sexual images to doxing.
In response, tomorrow on Safer Internet Day, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), which operates Cybertip.ca, is urging families to talk with youth about what constitutes online sexual violence, how to safely navigate these situations online, and where to go for help. C3P has created new education resources to help families and youth address online sexual violence.
The new resources outline online sexual violence as unsolicited and unwanted sexual actions and behaviours directed towards youth online, such as uninvited requests for sexual images or messages, or being sent unsolicited sexual images, also known as “cyber flashing.”
“There’s a real problem with the normalization of these actions and behaviours in the digital space,” states Noni Classen, Director of Education for C3P. “Offline if someone flashes you at the bus stop, or says something sexual to your child, say in the grocery store, you’d call the police. But it happens all the time online to youth, mostly without consequence.”
Classen adds there is also a marked increase in the aggressive and coercive tactics being used to pressure youth into sending sexual images.
“People are telling us that perpetrators are aggressively targeting youth with online sexual violence which includes using several social media accounts to message and harass youth. In a lot of cases youth are not telling anyone what is going on. Many are worried about being victim‑blamed, letting the adults in their life down, or just don’t know who to turn to for help. This underscores the critical need to teach youth skills for navigating online situations safely and offer them information on where to go for support.”
The new education resources, available at cybertip.ca/osv, provides both families and youth with information and “what if” scenarios to work through safe responses when being targeted with online sexual violence.
C3P also encourages parents/caregivers to report any instances of online sexual violence, harm, or victimization to cybertip.ca/report.