Specialists in the field of online “sextorsion” say they have noticed an increase in reports of this type involving young boys.
The Canadian Center for Child Protection reports that 65 boys reported incidents at Cybertip.ca in 2015-2016, an increase of 89% over the period 2013-2014. Reports involving girls jumped 66% during that same period.
Although a total of 65 male victims does not appear to be high, the significant increase indicates that boys are increasingly at risk of receiving online threats, says the Centre’s Executive Director, Lianna McDonald.
What is still unknown is the reason for this increase in reports. Ms. McDonald stated it is not known if the increase is because young people know more about where and when to report perpetrators or because there are more cases of sextortion.
The agency has launched its first ever awareness-raising and prevention campaign targeting young boys. It takes a humorous approach to initially get the attention of the young male audience (offering a funny image to send to anyone who requests nude photos) because campaigns using fear do not work well with boys.
The group has launched a website offering confidential online help, as well as information for boys, educators and parents who are looking to start the conversation.
In total, Cybertip reports from boys and girls increased by 140% from 2015 to 2016.
The officer in charge of the Child Exploitation Section of the Toronto Police says that boys are being sexually targeted much more than what people believe, saying he has met a criminal who admitted to having approached more than 1200 male victims.
All these boys believed they were sending photos to a girl their age, according to Detective Sergeant Paul Krawczyk.
He advises all parents to warn their boys of the risks and stresses that girls do not usually ask for explicit photos.
Girls, however, remain the main target of predators, McDonald said. While boys are generally targeted by unknown adults abroad, girls are exploited in many ways, including by young people their own age and who they already know.