Resources for parents and caregivers of kids aged 15-17
Your teen is probably very comfortable using the Internet, but they may not fully understand the risks out there. Learn what to look out for and how to talk to them about staying safe.
How to keep your teen safe
Older teens have spent much of their lives connected. They have online habits, may be creating content of their own, and are probably building relationships and exploring their sexuality online. They function daily in the online world and are less likely to talk to you about it than when they were younger.
There have always been people who prey on youth — the difference is the Internet allows them to do it anonymously and from a distance. It’s a growing problem across Canada, and teens need to be fully aware of online child sexual exploitation and how to protect themselves against it — with or without your help.
What your child needs to know
- What it is and how it happens online
- 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 you need to know
What grooming is and how to spot it
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.
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 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
- They may ask to meet your child in person
Signs your child may be in the process of being groomed
- They talk about a new friend you haven’t heard of
- They are very focused on spending more time online
- They have new things you didn’t get them (e.g. gifts, devices, video games or in-game upgrades)
- They are more secretive than usual when you are around
- They use sexual language they haven’t used before
- They are more fragile, moody or troubled than usual (even for a teenager)
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 (sex extortion) 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 pay them, provide more sexual content or do what they ask.
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 into pressure and breaking off communication if they feel threatened or uncomfortable
- Tell them it’s always OK to come to you or another safe adult, even if they think they’ve made a mistake
- Tell them about resources like Cybertip.ca and NeedHelpNow.ca in case they are worried and do not want to come to you
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