Niagara Regional Police have put out safety tips to help prevent child exploitation online, coinciding with Child Abuse Prevention month.
They say as the internet has grown,so has the frequency of exploitation.
They say in many cases, the crimes go unreported by victims out of fear of losing internet privileges or embarrassment.
“Predators exist on the internet. Keeping children safe can be done by following some of the following some safety tips,” said a public release Friday.
Here is their advice for anybody in a situation where a child reports online exploitation or cyberbullying.
They said not to delete the content or block the user, as police will use it as evidence in an investigation, or to prosecute.
Don’t talk to the subject at all or engage them in any way. They said some parents continue to converse with the suspect and threaten them, or threaten police involvement, or even communicate back as their child, “which puts the child in a compromising positions.”
Keep the computer on, don’t exit any programs, and contact police immediately.
There are things you can do.
You should record all the information you can find without talking to the suspect, for example their username, e-mail address, phone number, and any other general information possible. Don’t ask for the information. If a suspect is alerted to police involvement, they will often delete their profile, creating more obstacles for the police to obtain the evidence.
They say to be mindful and document how the child met the person. Police say teens will often meet someone on one social media site, and then move to another to have conversations, so the history of where they’ve been in contact is important, so any other profiles can be secured.
Wait until police arrive and let them handle the situation from there, and expect the police to seize the phone, tablet or computer briefly for analysis.
Police say not to take away internet privileges for the victim. They likely haven’t chosen to be exploited, so building confidence that they can come forward is key, along with educating them and having trust, is key.