Emerging Issues

Staying on top of emerging online risks can be a challenge for parents/guardians. New apps and sites are always emerging, known sites regularly change their protection features and those looking to harm youth are finding new ways to connect and manipulate children and youth. Below you will find information about online dangers and what you and your child can do about them.

Children 8–10 years of age

Cyberbullying – online harassment

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place through the use of computers, phones and other devices. It is abusive, targeted, deliberate and repeated behaviour intended to harm another person. And unlike face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying doesn’t take a break – kids can be reached with hurtful messages any time of day.

Remember to have regular conversations. Unfortunately, there isn’t a 30-minute crash course on this topic that will be effective. Explain the following to your child:

  • Assume everything you post (photographs included) is public. In the wrong hands it can be misused.
  • Protect your passwords, make them hard to guess and keep passwords private.
  • Question what you see online. People can easily lie about their age, gender, interests, personality; almost anything. Question everything.
  • Tell an adult if you encounter anything online that makes you feel uncomfortable or seems “weird.”
  • Use video chat with caution as people can record and save images.
  • Don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say in real life.
  • Make a habit of checking your privacy settings in social media apps regularly.
  • If you get mean messages from someone online:
    • Don’t answer them. It is hard not to write back when you are sent a mean message because you want to defend yourself. This could make things worse.
    • Keep it, don’t delete it. Save a copy of the message so you can show an adult what the person sent you.
    • Talk to a safe adult. Talk to an adult who can support you and help stop what is going on.
    • Block the person. Together with a safe adult, block and remove the person from your “friends” contacts on social networking sites.
    • Report it. If mean messages are sent to you again, keep telling your safe adult who can help you report it. Everyone deserves to be safe and treated with respect.
  • If someone you know is being mean to someone else online:
    • Stay out of it. Do not join in with friends who are sending mean messages to other people.
    • Stop it. If you receive a mean message about someone else, don’t share it with other people.
    • Talk to a safe adult. If you know someone who is being picked on by other kids, talk to an adult about it. Everyone deserves to be safe and treated with respect.

Online luring

Online luring commonly refers to the process through which someone communicates with a child online for a sexual purpose. The Criminal Code (Canada) defines a luring offence as someone using telecommunications (e.g., chat, messaging, texting) to communicate with someone they believe to be under the age of 18 in order to commit a designated offence against that child. Individuals seeking access to children for a sexual purpose may connect with kids at this age through online games and apps that have a chat and/or video chat capability.

  • Explain if someone in a game or online says something or asks them to do something that makes them feel “weird,” stop talking to them. Explain they should tell a safe adult if this happens.
  • Remind them not to share pictures with people they play against in games.
  • Remind them to get your permission before sharing pictures or video chatting with people online.
  • Remind your child they can always talk to you if they need your help, at any point in a difficult situation, without worrying about getting into trouble.

Exposure to sexually explicit material

Kids as young as eight and nine years old are coming across sexually explicit material on the Internet.

Children can be exposed to sexually explicit material, such as adult pornography, simply by typing an incorrect web address into a web browser or clicking on an inappropriate search result and unexpectedly finding themselves on a site they did not intend to.

To help reduce the chance of your child accessing pornography:

  • Be involved in what your child is doing.
  • Set up parental controls, use filtering software and set limits on your child’s use of devices.*
  • Supervise younger children when they are online.
  • Have regular conversations with your child about relationships and personal boundaries.
  • Provide a standard of measure for healthy relationships and healthy sexuality your child can compare to when trying to make sense of mass media messages.
  • Talk openly with your child about the hidden negative messages in media (e.g., gender stereotypes and the glorification of violence, power and control).
  • * Given there is such a wide range of software available for parents, and they all come with different benefits and risks, we are unable to provide any specific recommendations regarding software available for protecting children online. Most devices/browsers do provide the option to use parental controls to block access to sites flagged as being for individuals over 18; however, the available options will depend on the type of device and what browser (Safari, Google Chrome, etc.) is being used to access the internet. Most devices also offer parental controls to limit the type of apps that can be downloaded on the device.

    However, don’t rely solely on these settings. Having parental controls on does not guarantee completely safe viewing. Parental supervision is still key.

If you notice your child is in distress and you suspect it’s from viewing sexually explicit material:

  • Check search histories on the devices your child uses. If they have been viewing explicit material, talk to them about how upsetting that can be and what they have seen is not a real relationship. Explain it is acting.
  • Talk about healthy relationships and provide them with age-appropriate resources to help them learn about questions they have.
  • Increase supervision and monitoring of Internet usage for a period of time.
  • Be emotionally available and willing to listen to your child. When a child goes through a stressful experience, it is helpful for them to just have someone who cares about them to talk to without fear of judgment.
  • If your child does not want to talk, let them know you are available if they need you.
  • If there are changes in behaviour and your concerns persist, consult with your family doctor.

For more information, see Ask a Question.