Sextortion of children on the rise: Winnipeg experts

Canada’s tipline for reporting online sexual exploitation of children is seeing a huge influx in reports, according to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

There’s a 62 per cent jump in teens being extorted over the last six months, based on incidents submitted to Cybertip.ca

Teen boys between the ages of 15 and 17 are most impacted.

The director of Cybertip.ca, Stephen Sauer, says these reports – known as sextortion – are coming from all over the world and the perpetrators are more tech-savvy than you might think.

“They really understand how to use the technology. For instance, they know how to use bait videos where it’s a similar aged peer or appears to be a similar aged peer in the video and they’re able to quickly maneuver to make it look like they’re in a live conversation with youths. They really do know the tricks to coerce youth into engaging in this type of activity.”

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According to Sauer, the interaction typically begins through normal conversations on apps like Snapchat or Instagram.

However, it eventually ends up on a more private platform such as Skype and Google Hangouts, where it’s easier for the offender to coerce the teen and record the conversation.

“Once they’re livestreaming, then they record and share it back with the youth saying they’re going to release it to friends and families if they don’t pay a certain amount of money or if they don’t provide further imagery.”

Typically an offender demands hundreds of dollars, says Sauer.

The Winnipeg Police Service has a number of recommendations for both parents and children to stay safe – online and otherwise.

The WPS is reminding kids to always tell a parent where you’re going, who is going with you and when you’ll be back.

They also want to remind kids that adults shouldn’t be asking you for help like finding a lost kitten or puppy. If someone does approach you and ask for help, officers say you should tell the person you have to check with your parent first and then go and find your parent.

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For parents, the WPS says you should know the route your child takes to school or a friend’s house and practice walking those routes so everyone involved knows the exact route.

Perhaps most important though, according to the WPS, is if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts and if you feel threatened, make a lot of noise and run away until you’re safe.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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