Canadian experts call for more safety following B.C. sextortion case

It’s a Canada-wide crisis that’s affecting youth across the country. And as with the case of Carson Clelend it’s a crisis that experts are hoping more can be done to address.

Carson, a 12-year-old boy from British Columbia, died by suicide on Oct. 12 this year. Officers with the Prince George RCMP said the child had been a victim of sextortion.

“Sextortion is when somebody gets a sexual image of you, records it on their side and then threatens to distribute that image if you don’t give them more money or more sexual content,” said Signy Arnason, associate executive director with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

“(It’s) an enormous issue and we are calling it a public health crisis.”

The centre reported it’s seen over 100 per cent increase in sextortion cases in the last year. Cyber Tip, an online platform operated by the centre, reports around 50 sextortion cases in the country every week — over 80 per cent of which happen on social platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

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Carol Todd, founder of the Amanda Todd Legacy Society, said that Carson’s story is “heartbreaking”. Her own daughter was the victim of sextortion, having died by suicide in 2012.

“Having to hear another tragic story just added to the layer of sadness for me because I was already reflecting on missing my daughter,” said Todd, who added that the loss of another child to exploitation online was devastating.

She said that awareness and education is vital for children as they get exposed to the internet. But it is equally important for adults, caregivers, and parents. Ultimately, she said the goal is to create enough trust with your children so that “they know when (to) identify the red flags… and report that something is going on online.”

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The other way, she said, is to get government to act.

“We need to continue to talk to our politicians to have them help bring an online safety act into Canada somehow,” said Todd.

That push for governmental regulation is supported by Arnason and the centre for child protection, which has pushed for oversight on how online platforms operate. For Todd, government can always do more.

Youth impacted by sextortion can utilize resources like Cyber Tip that help remove intimate images online. Kids Help Phone is another resource that provides resources.

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Alisa Simon, executive vice-president of e-mental health transformations with the agency, said that kids need to be thought about the proper use of social media. The challenges of socia medial mean that more and more kids are reaching out to the agency for help.

She further noted that it is a scary moment for young people when faced with an incident of sextortion and exploitation. She advised that in the case of someone threatening to expose or harm you online, the best thing to do is tell an adult you can trust.

“Teaching young people about responsible social media, teaching them about the importance of reaching out and that it’s okay no matter what the scare situation is. They won’t get in trouble; you’re not going to be angry. You’re going to help them,” said Simon.

“Or a place like kids Help Phone will.”

— with files from Global’s Teagan Rasche

Click to play video: 'Warning to parents after suicide of B.C. boy linked to sextortion'

Warning to parents after suicide of B.C. boy linked to sextortion

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