RCMP warning – online predators exploiting children during pandemic

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The RCMP have put out a warning to parents to be more vigilant of their children’s online activities – as they are being targeted by online predators in new and increasing ways. With children now home since schools were closed, not being able to play with their friends and restrictions on being outdoors, they are taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic and the increase in time children are spending online. These predators have been around for a long while, sitting somewhere in front of their computer screens – and in the darkness of their tortured minds, they spread their sickness like the virus itself. Yes, they are clearly suffering from a mental illness and perhaps even victims themselves, but any empathy towards them would be hard-pressed – especially at a time like this.

In a CTV report Arnold Guerin, Sergeant of the RCMP’s Child Exploitation Crime Centre said, What we’re seeing is online offenders, particularly in the area of child sexual exploitation, is they’re changing their own behaviours and patterns because they know the kids are going to be home with increased screen time… you need to be involved in their digital life and you need to have good, solid, mature conversations with them about the potential risks that could happen.” While parents shouldn’t necessarily be alarmed, they should be vigilant, he added. ‘Parents can take advantage of technological safeguards like PARENTAL CONTROLS or CONSULT CYBERTIP.CA and PROTECTKIDSONLINE.CA for strategies on online safety’. You definitely want to be involved in reviewing the privacy settings on the apps so you know what’s being shared out. You have some comfort that you’re doing the best you can to restrict private information.”

A recent news report from the Northwest Territories RCMP said that ‘danger’ comes in many forms’ and things for parents to be aware of include children being coerced or deceived into producing explicit images or video and adults arranging to meet and abuse young people. As well, you should also keep an eye on the games and apps your kids are using, ideally before they download them. Make sure privacy settings for online games and apps are at their highest level. If you can, keep electronic devices in a part of the home that everyone shares instead of behind a closed door in a child’s bedroom’. They also recommend you ‘speak to your children and explain that anyone who asks for nude pictures or asks them to engage in sexually explicit activity needs to be reported to a parent, guardian or other trusted adult and law enforcement. Research shows offenders are less likely to target children who present a risk of telling, they explain and then concluded, “Predators rely on secrecy to groom and offend, which is why it’s important to report suspicious activity. Sexual attention in any form toward a child is never OK.”

By: Bonnie Wurst – info@mtltimes.ca

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