February 17, 2022
For many, transitioning to online learning throughout the pandemic has been a blessing and a curse in several ways. On one hand, having the ability to allow our children to continue their education and schoolwork in a safe environment is considered a luxury. However, this has meant an increase in children's internet activity over the last couple of years, and with this increase, ALERT's (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams) Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit, along with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, have reported an upsurge in online child exploitation.
Now more than ever, it is essential to monitor your children’s internet activity – especially when it comes to content sharing apps such as Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat.
The dangers of social platforms
Popular apps like Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat are designed to allow users to create and share pictures or videos, typically with little restriction. Without adult supervision or the use of safety settings, children can share their content with anyone on the app without realizing the potential consequences or understanding just who has access to those images or videos.
Most applications nowadays have a minimum age requirement, though that restriction does nothing to protect those young users who meet their conditions or manage to skirt the rules and create an account well before their 13th birthday.
Reports show that children are more than twice as likely to resort to using blocking and reporting tools on a platform rather than tell their parents or caregivers about a sexually explicit interaction. And, for the most part, the tech companies behind these platforms brush aside problems by saying that kids are not allowed there and that they work hard to remove them.
What can you do as a parent?
The best thing parents can do is have an open dialogue with their children when discussing the dangers online and what to do if they suspect someone is being lured. Parents also need to remain vigilant and educate themselves about the platforms their kids are accessing, how they are using them, and most importantly, who they are engaging with.
TikTok, for its part, has taken industry-leading steps to promote a safe and age-appropriate experience and offers different rules and interfaces for various age groups. TikTok also provides some additional tools for parents to limit how much time their kids spend on the app or what kids can see through a Restricted Mode, but these safeguards don't matter if parents are not involved in or aware of what their children are doing online.
Most kids have grown up with the internet, and in many cases, feel as though they are invincible when it comes to using it. Making sure your children are aware of the risks and dangers associated with using certain apps and providing them a safe space to turn if something goes wrong can go a long way in protecting our children.
Report crime online!
The RCMP are encouraging all Albertans to report eligible crimes online (select property crimes under $5,000). Reporting less serious crimes online helps emergency dispatch and frontline members focus their time on high-priority calls. It provides a convenient way to share photos to the RCMP as well. These reports assist in crime analysis, aid in establishing trends and patterns, and ultimately leads investigators to the chronic offenders. It also assists in making decisions about how and where to deploy resources. Crimes reported online will be taken just as seriously as crime reported in any other way.
Help reduce crime, report online! #ReportSmart
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