Online Exploitation

Which youth are most at risk?

When it comes to online sexual exploitation, some youth are more at risk than others. Research indicates that 13- to 15-year-old girls are most vulnerable, particularly those who voluntarily place themselves in risky situations- by engaging in online discussions with strangers, flirting and talking about sex online, and by publicly posting personal and intimate information in Web environments such as social networking sites.

It’s important to remember that young people who are most at risk online also tend to be those who are most at risk offline: they include youth who engage in harmful or risk-taking behaviours in the real world, gay or questioning sexuality (males), youth who are experiencing physical or sexual abuse, youth who are experiencing mental health difficulties and youth who have relationship difficulties with parents or caregivers.

How can you tell if a young person is being targeted?

It is possible that a youth is the target of an online predator or is being sexually exploited if:

  • they spend a great deal of time online alone
  • pornography or sexual photos are found on their computer
  • they receive phone calls from people their parents don’t know; or make calls (sometimes long distance) to numbers their parents don’t recognize
  • they receive mail, gifts or packages from someone their parents don’t know
  • they withdraw from family and friends; or quickly turn the computer monitor off or changes the screen if an adult enters the room

The following website has some fantastic tips and guidelines for parent's keeping their child safe online. In particular, it contains "A Parent's Guide to Facebook," A Parent's Guide to Snapchat, "A Parent's Guide to Cybersecurity," and "A Parent's Guide to Instagram."

If your child or your child's friend has been involved in a self/peer exploitation incident (otherwise known as “sexting”), this site is extremely helpful. This site provides you with guidance on steps your and your child or child's friend can take to get through this.