The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team’s Internet Child Exploitation Unit is urging parents to closely monitor their children’s internet activity after a spike in cases of online child exploitation in March. That month, ICE received 243 reports of online child exploitation from across the province, which more than doubles the two year average of 110 reports for the month.
ALERT Communications Director Mike Tucker says there could be several reasons behind the surge in reports, but he believes that it is a result of more people staying at home and spending time online as a result of COVID-19. He suggests the time is right for parents to have open and frank conversations with their children about the interactions they have in the online world.
“Maybe some of those restrictions, standards, and even time has slipped a bit during COVID as we are spending more time inside and I know that parents are a little more stressed out being thrust into teaching [roles]. It’s really important to invest in some safety measures and understanding what activities are taking place.”
Tucker adds time is of the essence when it comes to protecting youth in Alberta and across the country, and it’s up to parents to make sure their children are as safe as possible while online.
“I think there is a lot of naivety involved in some of this and parents thinking this could never happen to my son or daughter; they could never be duped in something like this,” he says. “You’re dealing with, in some of these cases, professional predators who have trained themselves and coached themselves to take advantage in these types of situations.”
Parents can find a plethora of resources to help protect their families by visiting the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Anyone with information about any child exploitation offence is encouraged to contact local police or visit cybertip.ca.
Written by Michael Lumsden, MyGrandePrairieNow.com