With pandemic restrictions boosting activities on the web, Surrey RCMP is reminding parents and guardians to take steps to protect children from online predators.
In a release issued Thursday morning (June 4), police cite a spike in child-pornography-related reports to the detachment’s Special Victims Unit in recent years, to 122 in 2019 from 55 in 2017.
Reports of child luring over the same period were “persistent,” the release adds, with 19 logged in 2017, 16 in 2018 and 18 in 2019.
“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 release states.
“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.”
Staff Sgt. Lyndsay O’Ruairc, of the Surrey RCMP Vulnerable Persons Section, said children and young people “can be especially vulnerable to exploitation and luring because they are unaware of the potential for predatory sexual behaviour.”
“With the risk for grooming by pedophiles and child pornographers, children rely on their parents and caregivers to be a first line of defense against hidden dangers online,” O’Ruairc said in the release.
Grooming, the release explains, is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Groomers may also build a relationship with the young person’s family or friends to make them seem trustworthy or authoritative.
To help parents protect their young ones, police encourage keeping an open dialogue to ensure children know they can come forward if they feel uncomfortable with an online interaction they’ve had; setting up “sharing” of family devices in order to monitor how cameras are being used; and, knowing what apps children have downloaded and if they create an ability to connect with strangers.
Any suspicious online activity should be reported to police. In Surrey, call 604-599-0502 or visit cybertip.ca