Sexual Exploitation - Safety Tips

As adults, we want to foster resilience in young people, starting when they’re young. This can be done by teaching them how to handle harassing messages or requests that make them feel uncomfortable – on the Internet or in the schoolyard – and, as they get older, by teaching them how to spot and respond to emotional manipulation. The good news is that most teens are effectively handling online requests from strangers – the bigger challenge is helping them handle sexual advances from people they know.

  • Ask young people if they know how to prevent people that they don’t know from contacting them in games, social networks and other online spaces, and how to limit who can see things they post online. If they don’t, suggest learning how, together.
  • Talk to young people about healthy relationships and the importance of not pressuring people or feeling pressured into doing things they don’t want to do – such as taking explicit pictures of themselves.
  • Provide kids with safe and reliable sources of information about healthy sexuality, such as Sexandu or CBC’s About Sex
  • Tell young people to talk to you if they are being pressured or sexually harassed by anyone. Ask them who they could turn to if they ever felt uncomfortable talking to you about something that happened.
  • Warn young people that there are people online who target adolescents to engage in sexual conversations. Make sure they understand that this is not limited to people they have met online: people they know offline may try to use digital platforms as a private space for grooming them.
  • Talk to them about why adults having sex or forming romantic relationships with underage adolescents is wrong. Make sure they understand that online predators are often not “strangers,” but people they already know who will use digital tools to communicate privately with them.
  • Help them recognize warning signs and grooming tactics, which include:
    • flattering them, especially about how they look
    • asking about times and places where they could meet or communicate online privately
    • introducing sex or sexual topics into the conversation
    • sharing or offering to share sexual images, either pornography or pictures of the sender
    • asking them not to tell their parents or friends about a conversation or about the relationship
  • Teach young people “exit strategies” that they can use to get out of online conversations that make them uncomfortable,
  • Make it clear to them that if they wish to meet a virtual friend in person, it must be in the presence of a trusted adult.
  • Younger adolescents should share their instant messaging or social networking passwords with their parents. Parent should only access their accounts in the event of a problem.
  • Help young people who have been victims of online sexual exploitation get counselling about their experience. Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre’s Internet Child Exploitation Counselling Program provides funding and referrals for youth victims of online sexual exploitation.
  • If a young person shared a sexual photo or video, consult the tip sheet Help! Someone Shared an Image of Me Without My Consent