Safer Internet Day is observed on Tuesday in the second week of February every year, and this year, the Manitoba RCMP is passing along a message to the public and parents about a growing concern being observed by the officers from the Internet Child Exploitation unit (ICE).
The RCMP says self-exploitation is generally defined as youth creating, sending or sharing sexual images and/or videos of themselves with peers online (YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, etc) or through electronic devices.
The Manitoba RCMP’s ICE unit has been receiving a higher-than-average number of calls from Social Media Applications reporting children taking these videos and posting them online, often linked to their parent’s social media accounts/devices.
In the year 2022, the ICE unit received 242 reports from Social Media Applications. For 2023, the number of reports increased to 652.
The following tips from the Manitoba RCMP can help ensure your children have a safer experience online;
- A reminder that social media applications are recommended 13+.
- Know all of your child’s account usernames and passwords.
- Be aware of secondary/backup accounts, often called “Spam” accounts.
- Check your child’s devices regularly and often. Also, check what they “Google” and watch on YouTube and who they communicate with on social media.
- Talk to them about appropriate online etiquette (e.g. bullying, harassment, threats, sexting and grooming).
- Free electronic device monitoring/parental control applications exist and are a great place to start when monitoring a child’s online activity.
“We encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children about online safety and to be vigilant of unsolicited friend requests,” says Corporal Gord Olson of the Manitoba RCMP ICE unit. “Safe online habits can go a long way to protecting kids from exploitation, but parent awareness is also key.”