A new analysis from the Canadian Center for Child Protection suggests a surge in sextortion crimes targeting youth, with the majority of victims being adolescent boys.
The Winnipeg-based agency says it opened 322 cases in July, compared to 85 in July 2021 and just 15 in July 2019.
Of those 322 cases last month, 92 percent were boys or young men.
In the past, the center has mainly seen cases of girls and young women being extorted for compromising photos, but that has changed, said Stephen Sauer, CCCP director of Cybertip.ca.
“The difference is that in young girls we often see that the individuals have sexual interest in the girls, and so they want to get more footage, get videos of them to fuel that sexual interest,” he said. .
“In this case with the guys, the difference is that these individuals don’t really have that sexual interest, but have the drive to make money.”
In many of these cases, the perpetrators manipulate teenage boys to extort them into giving them money, often by impersonating a young woman on social media platforms such as Snapchat or Instagram, he said.
“Realizing that young people, especially boys of this age, are vulnerable to manipulation tactics to get them to commit sexual acts online…biologically speaking, they basically go there to quickly comply with these kinds of requests,” he said.
“There’s a lot of embarrassment involved, so then they will also pay to hopefully reduce the distribution of that image or video.”
It’s something Derek Lints knows all too well. His son, Daniel, a rural Manitoba teenager who was a hard-working athlete and student, committed suicide in February after being sexually exploited online.
In an email Thursday, Lints said he would like to see governments step in and impose more regulations on tech companies.
LISTENING | Parents of Daniel Lints, a 17-year-old victim of sexual exploitation, speak with The current:
The current27:01A Manitoba teen died by suicide after being sexually extorted online. His parents want other families to know the risks
Police issues warnings
The increase in these types of crimes has prompted police agencies around the world to send urgent warnings about sextortion involving boys and young men.
The Nova Scotia RCMP issued one of these warnings in late July after seeing a large number of money-motivated sextortion reports targeting boys and girls.
RCMP used to see mostly sextortion cases involving girls and women, but that has recently changed, said Corporal Chris Marshall of the RCMP in Nova Scotia.
“I think that’s what scammers might be seeing is that these types of scams often work not only with young girls and young women, but also with young men and boys,” he said.
Understandably, people feel uncomfortable coming forward, but they need to realize that they have been the victim of a crime and it should be reported as soon as possible, he said.
“You have to realize that someone is taking advantage of you and that’s not okay,” he said.
“It would just be that if you do fall victim to this, it would be to immediately end all contact and contact your local police.”
Part of the problem is that social media has never been more integral to young people’s lives, said Darius Blades, a teenager from Brampton, Ontario, who works as a consultant at OneChild.ca, an organization focused on prevention. of child sexual exploitation.
“Personally, I feel like a lot of that dependency comes from the fact that, you know, social media was something we were kind of indoctrinated with. We grew up with it,” he said.
Part of the work OneChild.ca does involves destigmatizing the problem so that young people aren’t ashamed to come forward when they’re victims, he said.
“I think a lot of the problem also stems from the fact that when it happens to you, they don’t necessarily feel comfortable coming forward,” he said.
“They might feel embarrassed because, you know, they might think they’re alone in the matter and they think they’re alone in their experiences and what’s happening to them.”
Blades says he thinks it’s important that parents talk about this with their children, not lecture them.
“I know I shouldn’t send these kinds of pictures to strangers online, but despite that, it still happens,” he said.
“Think of your children as humans as, you know, real sentient beings with their own thoughts and opinions about many of these situations. Ask them where they come from regarding these issues.”