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Keep watch on your kids’ online activities while school’s out: Manitoba RCMP

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Kids being home from school due to the coronavirus pandemic means they have more access to phones and other devices that are connected to the internet, and police are urging parents to keep an eye on what their child is doing online.

Const. Gord Olson with the Manitoba RCMP’s counter-exploitation unit says it’s a good idea to maintain dialogue with kids about what they’re up to online.

Olson recently sent a presentation to local educators about internet safety and is hoping to get his message out to parents as well.

READ MORE: Winnipeg high school teacher facing more charges for alleged sexual offences involving students

“They have to be out there doing the stuff online with their schools, but when they get their own time on the phones, on the devices, just kind of keep an eye on them,” Olson told 680 CJOB.

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“See what they’re doing, ask the questions, keep the conversation going with them.”

One of the biggest issues, Olson said, is that kids don’t necessarily know their own limits online and can be more vulnerable interacting with strangers online — especially if those strangers are predators trying to manipulate them.

“They have a huge buy-in to what they’re being asked for when they’re talking to people online,” he said.

“They talk to strangers online, unfortunately. Somebody says ‘hi’ to them, they feel like they need to respond.

“The kids are looking for acceptance — the teens and tweens are looking for that acceptance. When they are engaged on those conversations and they’re being asked for nude images, intimate images, whatever they’re being asked for, they feel like they have to send them.”

READ MORE: Incidents of tweens being targeted, sexually exploited via live-streaming on the rise

It’s a good idea, he said, to be aware of what your child is doing online and who they’re talking to to prevent any bigger issues from happening down the road.

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Earlier this year, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection offered similar advice for parents and kids when it comes to livestreaming.

The organization told Global News in February that the national tipline it operates, Cybertip.ca, had a 57 per cent increase — 68 in 2018 versus 107 in 2019 — in reports of adults contacting children ages eight to 12 to engage in sexual activities via livestream.

Cybertip.ca program manager Catherine Tabak said captured images from livestreams have the potential to be used against tweens to embarrass or harm them.

“A lot of the situations that we see are children of that age group not understanding the risks or consequences as it relates to connecting with people that they don’t know online,” Tabak said.

“We’ll often see situations where an adult has actually used some sort of software or taken screenshots of a livestream and they use that to coerce children into engaging in sexually explicit activity or complying with demands.”

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