Instances of online child sexual exploitation are up dramatically in Alberta, possibly because the the COVID-19 emergency is keeping both children and those who would prey on them stuck at home, officials say.
ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit, which investigates online instances of child exploitation in Alberta, received 243 reported instances of online child exploitation in March, far in excess of the two-year average of 110.
“With children being home from school, not only are they spending more time online, but it appears that so are the predators. And they are looking to take advantage of our most vulnerable population: our kids,” said ALERT CEO Supt. Dwayne Lakusta in a release.
“As a parent myself, I have recently noticed some concerning online behaviour and have had to be even more diligent in monitoring what apps my child is using and who they are engaging with. All parents need to be vigilant of their kids’ online activities.”
During the first three months of 2020, ICE made 21 arrests and laid 61 charges in communities across the province.
As the result of those arrests, four children were rescued from sexual exploitation, abuse and/or instances of luring, ICE said.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has information on its website for families during the COVID-19 crisis, including resources for caregivers, schools and educators.
Anyone with information about any child exploitation offence is encouraged to contact local police or cybertip.ca.