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.

Youth 11–12 years of age

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is an extreme form of bullying among youth through technology. It is abusive, targeted, deliberate and repeated behaviour intended to harm another person. Sometimes non-consensual inappropriate images and videos are created and distributed as a form of bullying.

Speak to your tween about the following:

  • Assume everything you post (pictures included) is public. In the wrong hands, what you share (private information) can be used against you – it is easy to lose control of information.
  • Protect your passwords, make them hard to guess, change them often and avoid sharing them.
  • Question what you see online, people can easily lie about their age, gender, interests, personality; almost anything.
  • Tell an adult if you encounter anything online that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Remember anyone can capture and save images when using camera-enabled devices.
  • 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:
    • Take back your control – 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. 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.

  • Explain to your tween older teenagers and adults should not try to become friends with or give sexual attention to tweens. If this occurs, they should tell a safe adult.
  • Discuss how confiding and sharing personal issues or situations online with the wrong person could leave someone open to manipulation and mistreatment.
  • Teach your tween how to get out of conversations when they feel uncomfortable.
  • Remind your tween 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

Youth 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. At this age, they start to become more curious and interested in sexuality. In seeking out information on the Internet, they can be exposed to graphic and potentially harmful material that can influence their development of attitudes and beliefs about sexual relationships.

To help reduce the chance of your tween accessing pornography:

  • Be involved in what your tween is doing.
  • Set up parental controls, use filtering software and set limits on your tween’s use of devices.*
  • Reinforce the expectation you’ll monitor their online activities.
  • Have regular conversations with your tween about healthy relationships and how to build closer relationships with someone.
  • Provide a standard of measure for healthy relationships and healthy sexuality your tween can compare to when trying to make sense of mass media messages.
  • Talk openly with your tween about the hidden negative messages in media (e.g., gender stereotypes and the glorification of violence, sexual harm, 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 tween is in distress and you suspect it’s from viewing sexually explicit material:

  • Check search histories on the devices your tween uses and talk to them about it.
  • Let your tween know pornography online is graphic and it involves actors. It isn’t a real picture of sexual and intimate relationships.
  • Let them know they have seemed out of sorts and this can happen to kids their age when they are looking at sexually explicit material online. Explain it is not healthy for them to look at.
  • Increase supervision and monitoring of website access.
  • Be emotionally available and willing to listen to your tween. When children go 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 tween does not want to talk, let them know you are available if they need you.
  • If changes in behaviour persist or they continue seek out harmful content online after attempts to modify their behaviour, consult with your family doctor.

For more information, see Additional Information.