Incidents of online child exploitation in BC continue to rise and could reach record numbers in 2023.
According to the BC RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation Unit (ICE), 58 hundred reports have been received as of the end of March – at this current pace, it would smash last year’s tally of 96 hundred reports.
Corporal Sharen Leung, told Vista Radio while the upward trend is a concern, it’s not the least bit surprising given the online world we live in.
“The numbers are definitely shocking and they are very concerning but they are not surprising, especially as our world now revolves around online communication.”
“I think the key message is that we bring awareness that this is not a going away problem. It is definitely an ongoing issue that we need to educate anyone.”
Leung mentioned complaints connected to platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram along with other chat-based applications are among the most common they receive.
“A lot of what we are seeing is either people being in possession of child sexual abuse materials or distributing those child sex abuse materials to others on an internet platform. Those are the types of files we are seeing at BC ICE.”
The Mounties say the surge in the past couple of years is due to the pandemic, with more people staying at home and going online.
Leung stated the best defense is to educate your children about internet safety.
If any parents notice any subtle changes that appear uncharacteristic of their child Leund added the best thing to do is intervene and create a safe space to talk.
“If all of a sudden their personalities are different or they are getting gifts and you are uncertain where those gifts are coming from when they don’t have the money to buy those gifts. I think its important to go back to the communication asking those questions and making sure you provide a comfortable, safe space for them to share in instead of it being punitive.”
Here is the breakdown of the number of reported online child exploitation reports in BC over the past few years:
- 2021 – Over 4600 total reports received
- 2022 – Over 9600 total reports received
- 2023 [Jan 01 to March 31] – Over 5790 total reports received to date