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Having ‘the stranger talk’ with kids

It is every parent’s worst nightmare – a child not arriving home from school and is now nowhere to be found.
It’s important for parents to know what their kids are doing online, and to have access to their kids’ phones and computers, says St. Paul RCMP’s Cpl. Dave
It's important for parents to know what their kids are doing online, and to have access to their kids phones and computers, says St. Paul RCMP Cpl. Dave Henry, who talks to kids in local schools about digital citizenship.

It is every parent’s worst nightmare – a child not arriving home from school and is now nowhere to be found. 

After more than a week of searching for an Edmonton teen, news broke on Saturday that she had been located safe south of the Canadian border in Oregan with a male suspect not known to the family. 

On Saturday night, I was with my fiancé’s family when my mother and sister-in-law sat down with the kids to have ‘The Stranger Talk’ with them. 

I remember being the recipient of this talk when I was about the same age – verging on a preteen, and just wanting to be a teenager so I could do grown up things. 

The conversation followed the same key points – don’t talk to strangers, even if you're scared to get in trouble, don’t keep secrets from your mom and dad, if something doesn’t seem right report it to an adult you trust. And, most importantly, never get in a vehicle with someone you don’t know. 

But there were a few important changes in the evening’s conversation that never applied to earlier generations. “Never accept a friend request from someone you don’t know. Don’t speak to anyone online that you don’t know. If someone is sending you inappropriate messages tell someone right away.” 

The world is vastly different than it was just a generation ago. Technology has advanced 100-fold in a matter of a decade. Social media platforms have messaging systems specifically targeted to kids that are supposed to be safer. 

But in the wild west of the internet, individuals with unsavoury intentions are closer to reaching kids than ever before. 

That is why, now more than ever before, we must have real conversations with youth about the potential dangers of strangers. Not only in the outside world but also in the online world. 

Sexual extortion through means of social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram are on the rise, and kids under the age of 18 are not exempt from this trend, according to the Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit, which falls under Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT). 

The predominate age group being targeted by ‘Sextortion’ are boys aged 12-17, according to ICE.  

What is occurring is perpetrators are creating fake social media accounts and posing as someone that may be romantically desirable to the victim. The suspect will create an appearance of a promising online relationship in order to obtain sexually explicit pictures of the victim. 

Once these materials have been obtained, the perpetrator uses the images as blackmail and threatens to release them to friends, family or to share them online. Often these threats will be made over and over again, extorting more and more from the victim. 

This is a terrifying situation to imagine, let alone to be involved in as a minor. 

While the internet is a tool for many good things, it is also the space for people to attempt to extort, groom and lure youth without the watchful eyes of teachers, parents and other community members. 

Currently, a sextortion trial involving a deceased B.C. teen and Dutch man remains ongoing at the Canadian Supreme Court.

As much as we like to protect our youth, there are some conversations that need to be had.



Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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