Simply talking to your child may be your first step in keeping them safe. You are more likely to discover any threat to your child’s safety if you have an open and trusting relationship with them.
The Top Online Threats for Teens and Tweens
- Cyberbullying: A form of bullying among youth via technology. It is an abusive, targeted, deliberate, and repeated behaviour intended to damage and harm another young person.
- Sexting: Self/peer exploitation (sexting) is generally defined as youth creating, sending, or sharing nudes and/or videos with peers via the Internet and/or electronic devices (e.g., texting, messaging apps, social networking sites). Depending on how far it goes and whether or not swapped pics remain private, sexting can result in consequences ranging from severe reputation damage to child pornography charges.
- Sextortion: Sextortion involves individuals who coerce youth into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual acts via camera-enabled devices and then blackmail them with the threat of distributing the sexual images/videos if they do not pay money or provide more sexual images/videos.
- Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images: It is illegal for a person to distribute an “intimate image” of another person without that person’s consent. If the image involves someone under 18, it may be illegal to distribute the image regardless of whether consent was provided.
- Identity theft: It might seem strange to worry about identity theft when your teen doesn’t have any credit or assets to steal. But cyber-criminals like to take a teen’s blank slate of credit and open up accounts that can follow your child for years to come. The damage can impact your teen’s future by making it harder to do things like buy a car, rent an apartment, or get a job.
- Live Streaming: Youth may live stream intimate acts and not understand others can capture a still image or video of them engaged in that activity.
- Online predators: Online predators often pose as peers in an attempt to connect with potential victims. They can show up on social networks, chat rooms, and other online environments. Many predators attempt to groom teens for sexual exploitation or human trafficking. But a growing number of online predators aim to radicalize children for extreme political or religious groups.
If your child is in immediate danger or if you discover communication or a relationship between an adult and your child that is sexual in nature, contact your local police.
To report online luring or non-consensual distribution of an intimate image, call the police, visit Cybertip.ca/report or call 1-866-658-9022.
Should your teen want to speak to someone for support, consider Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) for anonymous and confidential counselling services.
If you’re worried about violating your teen’s privacy, look for a parental control app that’s designed to watch out for danger rather than spy on your child. There are a lot of apps out there that let parents know about potential risks without exposing details that could make your teen feel disrespected and violated. And always make sure the privacy settings are up and running on all devices, apps, and programs that your teen uses. Make sure they know how to secure their smartphone from hackers and other cyber threats.
More Internet Safety Resources
- Norton – 20 Internet Safety Tips: Tips and checklist to help families stay safer online
- Protect Children – Parenting Teens and Tweens in the Digital Age: Recognizing that many families are feeling overwhelmed trying to keep their kids safe in today’s digital world, this booklet includes information on current trends and online risks such as sextortion, online luring, and cyberbullying.
- Internet Safety – cybertip.ca: Cybertip.ca is a website whose goal is to provide “the public with current and age-appropriate information and resources to help educate Canadians about how to keep children safe while online.” Has a large amount of information about internet safety, including different types of information for children and teens, including cyberbullying.
- Protect Kids Online – Canadian Centre for Child Protection: ProtectKidsOnline.ca is a very user-friendly site with information geared to parents, teachers, and the general public. Information about young people is broken down by age group and includes information about the types of activities that children/teens engage in online (gaming, chatting, etc.) and practical tips for parents/caregivers.
- Overview of All Programs and Resources – Canadian Centre for Child Protection: The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has many online resources to support children and teens’ safety on the Internet. This page links to all of their projects. You will find resources geared to different grade levels and on topics ranging from safe texting to online gaming and sharing of personal information.
- Internet Safety Resources – Royal Canadian Mounted Police: The Internet Safety Resources page from the RCMP has general information about internet safety, including cyberbullying and child exploitation.
- Privacy and Kids – Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: The Privacy and Kids page has information on discussing online privacy with children.
- MediaSmarts – For Parents: The ‘For Parents’ section of the MediaSmarts website has information on discussing digital and media literacy topics with children and teens.
- Social Media: What Parents Should Know: The Canadian Pediatric Society’s website has information on how to keep children safe while they use social media.