Protecting your kids from internet sexual predators

Keeping kids safe online is an ever-evolving challenge. With summer holidays just around the corner, youngsters will no doubt have greater access to the internet.

The Toronto Police Service Child Exploitation Section would like to pass on important information to kids, parents and caregivers about how to use the internet responsibly and safely.

The aim is to reduce on-line risks to children, issues that have gained attention recently, as law enforcement agencies work to try and keep children safe.

Recently, there has been a rash of investigations involving children who have engaged in online communication with other kids via social networking sites and various chat programs.

Although the internet and various the social media have created another medium for youngsters to communicate, some kids are making bad decisions about what type of personal information they share and who they share it with.

Parents and children are encouraged to use all of the privacy features available on social networking sites to increase the safety of the information they are sharing. Parents and children must understand that private information posted online can become a way for online predators to build a relationship with them.

Some of these investigations involve acts of sexting, which is sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones. Children under 18 need to be aware that this is not only wrong but illegal. There are some jurisdictions, including Toronto, that have laid charges against people under 18 for sending images of themselves to someone else as it may constitute Distributing Child Pornography.

The recent rash of unrelated investigations also involves the creation of websites and blogs where kids are creating content on the web and posting images of themselves or other kids online that are pornographic. Sometimes this is done as a joke; sometimes this is done vindictively in an effort to embarrass someone or bully them.

Best internet practices by the the TPS Child Exploitation Section include not allowing children to have a computer in their bedroom, making rules and keeping tabs on what activities they engage in and what sites they visit, and getting kids to set higher security settings and regularly change passwords. Doing this, while building trust, is vital.

If parents would like further information on how to keep their children safe on the Internet we encourage them to visit our website at Click here for Child Exploitation and Click here for our national tipline. This site allows you not only to make reports on suspicious internet activity but also offers children and parents a wealth of information about safe internet practices for children of every age.

The Toronto Police Service would also like to announce its commitment to the Commit to Kids program – a new national program launched by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Commit to Kids is a program to help organizations create safe environments for children. It provides policies, strategies, and a step-by-step plan for reducing the risk of child sexual abuse, encouraging organizations to take an active, participatory role in protecting children in their care.

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