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 13–15 years of age


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 sexual images and videos are created and distributed as a form of bullying.

Remind your teen to:

  • Assume everything they post (pictures included) is public and they can easily lose control of what happens to it.
  • Protect their passwords by not sharing with anyone.
  • Question what they see online. People can easily lie about their age, gender, interests, personality; almost everything.
  • Talk to a parent or adult before meeting an online friend. Make sure someone knows who and where they are meeting.
  • Be careful with camera-enabled devices as anyone can capture and save images.
  • Avoid saying anything online they wouldn’t say in real life.
  • Make a habit of checking their privacy settings in social media apps regularly.
  • Keep themselves informed about policy changes and updates for their social media apps.
  • Visit NeedHelpNow.ca for advice on how to get help with online problems with pictures.
  • If they get mean messages from someone online:
    • Take back control – don’t answer them. It is hard not to write back when sent a mean message because people want to defend themselves. This could make things worse.
    • Keep it, don’t delete it. Save a copy of the message so they can show an adult what the person sent them.
    • Talk to a safe adult. Talk to an adult who can support them and help stop what is going on.
    • Block the person and remove the person from “friends” contacts on social networking sites.
    • Report it. If mean messages are sent again, keep telling a safe adult who can help them report it. Everyone deserves to be safe and treated with respect.
  • If someone they 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 they receive a mean message about someone else, don’t share it with other people.
    • Talk to a safe adult. If they 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 with a sexual interest in children prepares a child for future sexual contact. 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 years in order to commit a designated offence against that child.

  • Explain to your teen adults should not try to become friends with or give sexual attention to teens. If this occurs, it isn’t safe and they should tell a safe adult.
  • Discuss how sharing personal issues or situations online with the wrong person could leave someone open to manipulation and mistreatment.
  • Teach your teen how to get out of unwanted conversations. Practice making up excuses they can use to get out of situations.
  • Remind your teen they can always talk to you if they need your help, without worrying about getting into trouble.

Self/peer exploitation

Self/peer exploitation (also known more generally as “sexting”) refers to youth creating, sending or sharing sexual images and/or videos with peers online or through electronic devices.

To help prevent a self/peer exploitation incident:

  • Discuss the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships with your teen.
  • Explain the importance of establishing and respecting personal boundaries when using technology.
  • Discuss the types of problems that may arise from sharing private and intimate information electronically, including pictures and videos.
  • Teach your adolescent that it is illegal to distribute an intimate image of someone without their consent.

If your teen has been involved in a self/peer exploitation incident:

  • Reassure your teen they are not alone and you will get through this together.
  • Ask your teen to describe what was sent and to whom, how it was sent, when it was sent and where it was posted/located. This information will assist in guiding your next steps.
  • If the concerning content continues to be publicly available on the Internet, contact the site directly by using the “Report Abuse” function to request that the material be removed. Let the site know the person in the photo/video is under 18 years of age and the content was made available without their consent. (For more information on how to make a request to a specific site or service, visit NeedHelpNow.ca.)
  • Reinforce the importance of friends to help increase strength and resiliency.
  • Create a safety plan with the school to make sure your teen feels supported and secure.
  • Seek professional help if necessary.

Non-consensual distribution of intimate images

The non-consensual distribution of intimate images refers to the sharing of an “intimate” image or video of another person without their consent. If the image or video involves someone under 18, it may be illegal to distribute regardless of whether consent was provided.

If the picture or video is not yet online (or if your teen does not know if it’s online):

  • Have your teen send a message by phone, text, email or speak in person to the individual who has the picture/video saying something like: “I do not consent to you having the picture/video of me that I sent to you on [date]. I want you to delete it and I do not give you permission to share it with anyone else.”

If the picture or video is already online:


Sextortion involves individuals coercing youth into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual acts via a camera-enabled device. These individuals then blackmail the youth by threatening to distribute the sexual images or videos if the youth does not provide more or pay them. The use of live-streaming services has increased the vulnerability of youth to this type of exploitation because youth can be recorded without their knowledge and then blackmailed.

  • Have conversations with your teen about the risks associated with using technology to experiment sexually and the potential risk of blackmail or extortion. It might be helpful to use media stories to engage them in conversation (cybertip.ca/extortionexamples).
  • Reassure your teen if they ever end up in a problem situation, you’re there to help.
  • If your teen is being blackmailed or extorted online:
    • Immediately call your local law enforcement agency or report to Cybertip.ca.
    • Do not comply with the threat.
    • Stop all forms of communication with the individual (block from all accounts).
    • Deactivate accounts used to communicate with the individual.

Exposure to sexually explicit material

Youth are exposed to sexually explicit material on the Internet. Some youth intentionally seek it out as they are sexually curious. 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 teen accessing pornography:

  • Be involved in what your teen is doing.
  • Set up parental controls, use filtering software and set limits on your teen’s use of devices.*
  • Have regular conversations with your teen about healthy relationships and building intimacy and closeness with someone. They need to understand pornography is not real relationship; it is acting. It is also not a depiction of a healthy sexual relationship.
  • Provide a standard of measure for healthy relationships and healthy sexuality your teen can compare to when trying to make sense of mass media messages.
  • Talk openly with your teen 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 teen is in distress and you suspect it’s from viewing sexually explicit material:

  • Talk to them about it.
  • Let your teen know you notice they seem out of sorts. Ask if everything is okay, or if you can help in any way.
  • Be emotionally available and willing to listen to your teen. When teens 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 teen does not want to talk, let them know you are available if they need you.
  • If changes in behaviour persist, consult with your family doctor.

For more information, see Ask a Question.