The number of child pornography cases has more than doubled over the last three years, Surrey RCMP said on Thursday.
In a release, Mounties revealed the statistic as part of a reminder for parents to monitor the activities their kids are participating in online – particularly as more people are turning to online activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the past three years, the Surrey RCMP Special Victims Unit has seen an increase in the number of child pornography related reports rising from 55 reports in 2017, to 122 reports in 2019,” police said. “There has also been a persistent number of reports related to child luring, with 19 reports in 2017, 16 in 2018, and 18 in 2019.”
Police said that in some cases, children and young people are lured into exposing themselves in photos, videos, or on live webcams, where screenshots are then taken of them.
“The perpetrators of these crimes often use the threat of exposing the nude images to the child’s family and friends, to extort more photos, videos or to lure the child into other sexual activity,” police said.
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“[Child luring] often comes as a result of a sexual predator engaging a child or young person in an online relationship, gaining their trust, and convincing them to meet in person to engage in sexual activity,” police furthered, adding that sexual predators are “experts at convincing children and young people to participate in activity that would otherwise be out of character for the child.”
This is done through a process called grooming, in which “someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them,” police said. “Groomers may also build a relationship with the young person’s family or friends to make them seem trustworthy or authoritative.”
Children and young people “can be especially vulnerable to exploitation and luring because they are unaware of the potential for predatory sexual behaviour,” said Surrey RCMP Staff Sgt. Lyndsay O’Ruairc. “With the risk for grooming by pedophiles and child pornographers, children rely on their parents and caregivers to be a first line of defence against hidden dangers online.“
As such, “a measure of healthy vigilance” can go a long way to keeping children and young people safe while online. According to police, these measures include the following:
- Keep an open dialogue: Let your kids know they can come to you if they feel uncomfortable with an online interaction or if they shared an image online they regret. Visit NeedHelpNow.ca for what to do if a sexual picture or video has been shared online.
- Cameras and webcams awareness: Do you know what photos your child is taking? Parents may consider setting up “sharing” between all family devices for photos and downloads so they can easily view how cameras are being used.
- Video game consoles and multiplayer platforms awareness: Who is playing and communicating/interacting with your kids while they are gaming? Some of the popular gaming and messaging apps connect youth with complete strangers.
- Knowing what apps your child has downloaded: Are there messaging, chat or webcam features? Is there an ability for strangers to connect with them? Sign up for Cybertip.ca alerts to receive the latest trends.
Police say that any suspicious online activity should be reported to authorities.
“Internet safety can be an overwhelming topic for many parents,” said police. “However, it’s so important to not only start the conversation but keep it going.” For those looking for more information on tips and precautions, a host of resources is available online.