Police in northwestern Ontario are urging parents to speak with their children about the dangers of ‘sexting’.
The Red Lake and Ear Falls OPP say they’ve seen an increase in local incidents relating to ‘self-peer exploitation’ or commonly known as ‘sexting’ with unknown individuals, both within friend groups and from unknown individuals over the internet.
The OPP says individuals asking for or sharing explicit media online could face several criminal charges, including extortion, publication of an intimate image without consent, making, distributing or accessing child pornography or luring minors over the internet for sexual purposes.
Police also provided several safety tips for everyone to stay safe, as well as specific tips for parents and for victims.
Safety tips to prevent sextortion:
- Don’t accept unknown friend requests,
- Limit the amount of personal information you post to make it difficult for scammers to learn specifics,
- Set your social media accounts to ‘private’ or set your privacy settings to limit who can contact you,
- Cover your webcam when you aren’t using it so you can’t be recorded without your consent,
- Don’t click on links or download files from unknown sources, and use anti-virus software,
- Requests for intimate images of yourself should be a red flag, and never send them to any platform,
Tips for parents:
- Look for resources on how to keep your child safe online, such as protectchildren.ca,
- Monitor your child’s online activities, social media profiles and who they are friends with,
- Talk to them about befriending strangers online and the information they share,
- Make them aware of online threats like sextortion, fake profiles and fraud,
- Let them know they can come to you with questions or problems, and that you can help,
If you are the victim of sextortion, don’t try to handle this alone, and take these steps:
- Stop all communication with the person,
- Save all texts, images and communications,
- If you are a youth or teenager, tell your parent or guardian so they can help you,
- Contact police with the help of your parent or guardian,
- Make a report through Cybertip.ca,
- Report the suspect username through the social media platform from which they are contacting you,
Anyone with information regarding the sexual abuse of teens, children or adults in the area is asked to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122, or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).