Booklet for parents and caregivers of kids aged 10-17

Revealing The Dangers Of Online Child Sexual Exploitation

(For Caregivers Of Youth Aged 10 To 17 Years Old)

Online child sexual exploitation: what you need to know

Today’s youth are very active online. They interact with others through games or YouTube, use computers or tablets at school daily, create, comment on and share content through social media, and often have their own personal connected devices. As they get older, they will build relationships and explore their sexuality online — and they are less likely to talk to you about it.

There is an upside to all this technology, but it can put you and your child in harmful situations

There have always been people who prey on children and youth — the difference is the internet allows them to do it anonymously and from a distance. It’s a growing problem across Canada. Parents need to be aware of how to protect children from online child sexual exploitation and teach them to recognize potential risks and stay safe online.

What your child needs to know

Online grooming:

  • What it is and how it might happen
  • How they can reduce the risk

Sexual images and videos:

  • What they are and how they may not depict healthy relationships
  • What to do if they are sent to your child or your child finds them

Sexting and sextortion:

  • What they are and the unexpected impacts they can have
  • What to do if they’ve shared intimate images or someone is trying to control them


  • What it is and how it might happen
  • How to protect themselves and what to do if it happens

What is grooming?

Grooming is when someone builds trust with a child, and sometimes the adults around them, to gain access to and control the child by normalizing certain behaviours and expectations.

Online tactics a groomer might use:

  • Your child is approached — they may falsely identify themselves to make a connection as a peer, or it can be someone they know
  • They talk about the child’s friends or interests, give gifts and compliments
  • They make promises of a better life, a loving relationship or future gifts, money, drugs or alcohol
  • They cause division saying “your parents are too strict” or “don’t understand you”
  • They normalize sexual behaviours by showing the child sexual images or videos
  • They sexualize the relationship by sending or asking for your child to record and send sexualized images or videos
  • They may threaten or pressure your child to do what they ask, which could lead to sextortion
  • They may ask to meet your child in person

Signs your child may be a target of online child sexual exploitation:

  • They talk about a new friend you haven’t heard of before
  • They are very focused on spending more time online
  • They have new things you didn’t get them (e.g. gifts, devices, video games, new apps or video game upgrades)
  • They are more secretive than usual when you are around
  • They use sexual language they haven’t before
  • They are more fragile, moody or troubled than usual (even for a teenager)
  • They isolate themselves in certain locations in the home more than they would normally (e.g. the bedroom or the bathroom)
  • They complain of stomach aches, headaches and trouble sleeping

Remember that the signs of online sexual exploitation are not exclusive to specific acts. The tactics offenders use can be interchangeable across different situations, and different types of exploitation can lead to others.

What is sexting?

Sexting is when your child creates, sends or shares sexual messages, images or videos with friends, people they know or even strangers online. Older kids may think it is harmless, especially with someone they know or like, but once an image is sent, it is out of their control and it can end up hurting them or someone else.

What is sextortion?

Sextortion is a type of blackmail where someone threatens to send a sexual image or video of your child to friends, family or other people if they don’t provide more sexual content, pay them or do what they ask.

What is capping?

Capping is when someone, typically an adult, records or screenshots boys and girls they target on various video streaming platforms or applications getting naked or engaging in sexual activities — often without the victim knowing they are recording the video chat. They may share this video with others, or use it to sextort their victim.

Online tactics a capper might use:

  • Your child is approached by an individual pretending to be someone they are not — often someone around your child’s age
  • They take your child to a private chat or less secure platform to video chat
  • They often use video clips and specialized software to make a convincing “bait video” to trick your child into having a conversation with them
  • They trick or coerce your child into taking off their clothes or engaging in sexual activities on camera, sometimes by promising to do the same
  • They capture the video — cappers can be so fast that kids don’t even know it has happened to them

What you can do

The most important thing is to be aware and to talk openly and regularly with your child:

  • Let them know you are available to talk any time
  • Understand they may be hesitant to share with you
  • Use real life examples they can relate to that aren’t about them
  • Talk about online safety, privacy, establishing boundaries, healthy relationships and consent
  • Talk to them about not giving in to pressure and breaking off communication if they feel threatened or uncomfortable
  • Tell them it’s always okay to come to you or another safe adult, even if they think they’ve made a mistake
  • Tell them about resources like and in case they are worried and do not want to come to you

Additional resources for caregivers

  • Local police
    If you know about a child who is in immediate danger or risk, call 911 or your local police
    Canada's online tip line for reporting online sexual exploitation of children
    Contact Kids Help Phone by calling 1-800-668-6868 or texting 686868
    Help with removing sexual pictures or videos of your child from the internet
  • Wellness together Canada
    For mental health support, text 741741 or visit

Learn more about Online Dangers

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