‘Tip of the iceberg’: Online luring numbers continue to rise

Safer Internet Day was marked Tuesday with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection warning parents to be aware of the dangers online.

Catherine Tabak, the program manager at Cybertip.ca, said the number of online luring incidents is alarming.

“In terms of the number of incidents that are being reported into our tip line, I think the most concerning part is that those are just situations that have escalated to a point where someone has reached out for help,” said Tabak. “We really are only just seeing the tip of the iceberg in this space.”

The number of luring reports has risen 815 per cent over the last five years, according to Canadian Centre for Child Protection. The centre said in 2018 there were 220 reports, spiking to 2,013 reports by the end of 2022.

Tabak said the pandemic saw a lot more kids accessing the internet.

“That could be used as a measure why those incidents have escalated. But also we’re seeing incidents involving kids at a younger age,” Tabak said.

“We know that they are getting access to those devices at younger ages, so it provides more opportunities and vulnerabilities for them to be targeted by offenders.”

Tabak said online luring happens when anyone over the age of 18 uses a form of telecommunications to connect with a minor and sexually exploit them.

“In most of the cases (reported) to the tip line, we’re seeing offenders looking to gain access to sexual imagery or pictures and videos of youth,” Tabak said. “In some of the more extreme cases, we’re certainly seeing where offenders are looking to sexually offend directly against children, so they are making plans to meet that child in person.”

When asked how these numbers can be reversed, Tabek said the best way is for parents to maintain open communication with their kids and ensure they feel safe coming to them when something is wrong.

“On the flip side, I really do think we are in a position now where we need some of these platforms to be doing more to protect kids on their services. Part of that is really government coming in and doing some regulation in this space.”

More tips and information for parents can be found online.

– With files from CTV News’ Maralee Caruso

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