The Rising Danger of Online Predators for Canadian Children
The Alarm Bell: C3P’s Powerful Campaign
With the staggering growth in reports of offenders targeting children through social media platforms, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) released ‘The Horse’ today – a powerful campaign about the dangers the unregulated internet has evolved into for children. More than 77% of Canadian children ages 9 – 17 have a smart phone. Parents and caregivers see them as tools for keeping children safe and connected. What they may not realize, however, is these devices are also Trojan Horses that, without warning, can give offenders direct, 24-7 access to children in their homes, bedrooms and schools.
Disturbing Statistics Highlighting the Online Threat
- A worrying 29% of children have received sexually explicit content from an adult or stranger online, predominantly on their personal mobile phones.
- As per a Finnish study, 36% of children have been solicited monthly to share or send nude images of themselves, with 50% having received messages of a sexual nature during the same period.
- Another study from Sweden reveals that 46% of girls and 29% of boys aged between 10 to 13 have been propositioned for nude photos in exchange for money. Furthermore, 80% of these girls and 63% of these boys have been sent unsolicited nude images.
The Void of Regulation in the Online Space
Unlike offline, where governments have rules and regulations for companies and spaces that serve children, online guardrails simply do not exist. The responsibility has entirely — and unfairly — been placed on parents. From a mom whose son died by suicide after being sextorted:
“On February 19th of last year our son Daniel took his life after being a victim of an online organized sextortion ring. He was 17 years old. Every day our family has to wake up to this nightmare. This was not his fault.
Every time I read an article about a child being victimized online, it always goes back to the parents – watch your child online and have the hard conversations. We did all those things. We talked to them whenever we read about a new risk online. Despite our online safety coaching; a Nigerian scammer posing as a young women coerced Danny into sharing intimate images of himself over Snapchat. These predators then used the images to blackmail him. He emptied his bank account of the $300 he had, trying to pay them off. That wasn’t enough for them, and they kept up the demands or his image was being released to all his family and friends. Danny felt backed into a corner and like he was the criminal. Our family now tragically knows how easily anonymous online terrorists can access children.
The Call to Action: Holding Tech Giants Accountable
We ask you to please consider regulatory bills that will force social media companies to make their products safer for our children. We ask you to think of Danny.
To watch the campaign, go to protectchildren.ca/thehorse, where the public can also take a short survey about what they think should be done to safeguard children online.
We need governments around the world holding tech companies to account. Thank you to our international allies for supporting this campaign: 5Rights Foundation, Fairplay, ECPAT Sweden, Suojellan Lapsia, Innocence in Danger Germany, and the Marie Collins Foundation.