EDMONTON – In 2012 alone, Alberta officials investigated more than 440 new cases of internet-related child exploitation, and laid more than 300 charges against 72 people province-wide.
Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams’ (ALERT) Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) units are using International Safer Internet Day as an opportunity to raise awareness about the issue and to remind people to ensure online safety year-round.
ICE investigators are seeing a higher number of files involving images shared online, as well as an increased number of cases involving online luring.
“The ways in which kids access the internet and their online activity continue to evolve,” explained Sgt. Mike Lokken of ALERT’s northern ICE unit in a news release Tuesday.
“As a result, teaching online safety is even more critical to prevent harm against children.”
The ICE team is offering Albertans some tips on how to reduce the risk of online luring:
– Do not give out personal information to strangers online
– Keep in mind that people are not always who they say they are online
– If someone you don’t know approaches you or makes you uncomfortable online, tell your parents
– Predators use threats to gain control over children. Tell someone if you are being threatened, and know that complying with their demands is unlikely to prevent a predator from making further threats
– Never agree to meet someone in person that you have met online without first discussing it with your parents
Investigators say young people should not share images through text messaging, email, or social media.
“Issues related to ‘sexting’ are something we are seeing more frequently, with young people not understanding the consequences of sending, receiving or forwarding nude or explicit images,” said S/Sgt. Greg Johnson of ALERT’s southern ICE unit in Tuesday’s news release.
“When you share a nude or explicit image of someone under the age of 18, you are sexually exploiting that person and can be charged with child pornography offences. Our intent here is not to scare kids, but to make them think twice before they share these types of images,” he added.
Offers are reminding Albertans of the following:
– Once you send a picture online, you have no control over it. You cannot control the recipient’s actions once he or she receives your photo
– Pictures are never completely removed from the Internet
– Creating, possessing and distributing sexually explicit images of someone under the age of 18 are illegal
– Engaging in these activities can result in criminal charges
For more tips and online safety resources, parents and children can visit the ALERT website.
Albertans can submit tips through a national website for reporting online sexual exploitation of children: www.cybertip.ca