by Contributor on Tuesday May 09 2023
The RCMP said in a media release that while reports of online child exploitation rose dramatically during the COVID pandemic, which caused many to stay in their homes, police have since seen that upward trend continue.
RCMP said the sad truth is, there are people that use the internet to victimize and exploit youth.
"Our children are continually being targeted online, and it is important for youth, and their guardians to stay alert. Predators can find ways to have direct contact with youth on various social media platforms, even in the false safety of our physical homes with locked doors. Kids of all ages are increasingly vulnerable in our always-online world," the RCMP said.
RCMP said the number of reported online child exploitation reports has continued to steadily increase over the past few years.
The BC RCMP Integrated Child Exploitation (BC ICE) Unit receives referrals from the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, cybertip.ca, Crimestoppers, Interpol and many other international policing partners.
- 2021 – Over 4600 total reports received
- 2022 – Over 9600 total reports received
- 2023 [Jan 01 to March 31] – Over 5790 total reports received to date
RCMP said that if rate holds, reports could more than double again for 2023 over last year.
"We encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children about online safety and to be vigilant of unsolicited friend requests," said Corporal Sharen Leung, of BC ICE. Safe online habits can go a long way to protecting kids from exploitation, but parent awareness is also key.
There are several age-appropriate online resources available, including cybertip.ca, and protectchildren.ca.