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Yukon RCMP share tips on keeping kids safe from online sextortion, bullying

Online sextortion and bullying are a reality of the internet age, but there are ways to protect kids
Despite what some might think, young men are the most common targets of online sexual extortion, with 90 per cent of sextortion victims being male. (Pixabay/ OleksandrPidvalnyi)

This story contains discussion of sexual violence and suicide that readers may find disturbing. Rapid access counselling is available in the Yukon at 867-456-3838. Mental health support is available 24/7 at the Wellness Together Canada hotline at 1-866-585-0445.

“The internet is real life.” The Yukon RCMP is sharing this message as part of its ongoing campaign to promote safe internet use among young people.

Speaking with the News, Const. Carlie McCann wants Yukon youth to know that their online behaviour can have real-world consequences. She says police in the territory have received reports of both cyberbullying and issues stemming from intimate photos shared online in the territory.

“We’re not immune to [sextortion and cyberbullying] here in the Yukon […] I don’t have a specific statistic that I can give for how many files we have like this in the Yukon, but it is something that we have seen and that we are trying to work to prevent. We want people to be aware because, you know, it is a problem here,” McCann says.

Public Safety Canada defines cyberbullying as “the use of computers, smartphones or other connected devices to embarrass, hurt, mock, threaten or be mean to someone online.” As examples of cyberbullying, McCann mentions mean memes directed at classmates or making a fake Instagram account to make fun of someone.

Unlike old-fashioned in-person bullying, cyberbullying can be done at any time from anywhere, meaning victims have less of a reprieve from the taunts and attacks. The difficulty some young victims have disconnecting from the bullying they experience is having negative impacts on the mental health of those targeted, according to McCann.

“Back in 1998, if someone was getting bullied, they get home from school, and then they can get away from that [behaviour] for a few hours […] We are so connected now, it’s very difficult for kids to get home and separate themselves from the mean things that they’re hearing about themselves and the negative things that they’re seeing. And so, it’s unfortunately taking a very significant negative toll on kids’ mental health when they’re victims of cyberbullying,” McCann says.

She adds that schools are well-equipped to deal with instances of cyberbullying and that police only become involved when the school and parents are unable to deal with the bullying or credible threats of violence have been made.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail that involves an individual or individuals threatening to send an intimate image or video of someone to other people or to post it online unless they send money or more images. Young men are typically extorted for money, according to, while young women are extorted for more intimate photos or videos.

Data shared online by, which is operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), indicates that young men are the most common targets of sextortion, with 90 per cent of victims being male. Most sextortion incidents occur on Snapchat or Instagram.

“We’re seeing that boys are approached by girls online, and it’s usually on Snapchat or Instagram, who are saying they’re the same age, saying they want to date or whatever. They’re being convinced to send images that show nudity, videos that show nudity or sexual acts and things like that. And then, when [the exploiter] starts getting these images, the victim is told, you know, ‘I’m actually not this person. If you don’t send me money, I’m going to release these photos,’” McCann tells the News.

“Girls are usually extorted for more images and more videos, unfortunately […] So then girls feel that they need to share more of these images in order to prevent the ones they’ve already sent from being released,” McCann says.

She adds that sextortion is often done by organized crime groups—not individuals—and that perpetrators could be based anywhere around the globe. notes that it gets an average of 10 sextortion reports daily.

Highlighting the very real and disastrous consequences of sextortion and online bullying, McCann points to cases like the 2013 death of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons in Nova Scotia and the 2023 death by suicide of a 12-year-old boy in Prince George, British Columbia.

Parsons died after being taken off life support after attempting to kill herself. The events leading up to her death are too long to recount in detail here, but in short, Parsons was raped when she was 15 years old, and pictures of the sexual attack were circulated throughout her school and community. The pictures resulted in Parsons being cyberbullied, leading to mental health challenges in the months leading up to her death.

The 12-year-old in B.C. who died by suicide last year took his life in response to online sextortion, according to the Prince George RCMP.

McCann says the RCMP wants victims of sextortion and their families to know that police are there to assist them—not get them in trouble.

“The big thing that we want kids and their parents to know when it comes to sextortion-type issues is that, in a situation where it’s reported to the police, our goal is not to get that kid in trouble. Our goal—100 per cent—is to figure out ways that we can make that kid safe. We don’t want to get kids in trouble for the fact that they’ve been scammed […] they are the victim in this situation,” McCann tells the News.

She adds that police will investigate and, in some cases, pursue prosecution against those responsible for online sextortion. They can also try to have intimate images of a victim removed from online platforms.

“There are situations where we can try to get those [images/videos] removed, where we can figure out where those were sent to, where they’re potentially being saved, how they’re being shared, and try to get those removed, because that is obviously kind of what the goal is, to collect those images.”

If someone falls victim to sextortion, McCann says they should speak with a trusted adult. Police can also be alerted to the situation. She also notes that the websites and are helpful resources for people dealing with sextortion.

Speaking about how to minimize the risk of being sexually extorted online, McCann says parents should talk with their children about internet safety, including when—or if—it’s okay to engage with strangers online. Parents should also know how their kids communicate on their phones and what social media platforms they use.

“Privacy is important. Obviously, we want to make sure our kids have privacy. But it’s also important for parents to be aware of who their kids are communicating with online and what apps they’re using. Making sure that you know if your kid has a Snapchat account and what kind of images they’re sharing,” McCann says.

She adds that parents can set tech-related rules and boundaries for their households, such as no devices in bedrooms and having a communal spot where devices are charged overnight.

A young girl and older woman use a laptop. (Pixabay/TungArt7)

It is also important to avoid oversharing online. Parents should set a good example for their kids by respecting the privacy of others online and ensuring they aren’t posting overly private information. Parents should also monitor their and their kids’ online reputations by Googling family names every now and again.

Of course, ensuring that kids’ devices have appropriate privacy settings is also important.

“Checking and adjusting privacy settings regularly is important. Are your kids’ Instagram accounts public so anyone can see them, or are these private so you have to request to follow? Those private accounts are important for young people as well,” McCann says.

Parents should also be aware of the online protections employed at their child’s school and the privacy settings and online protections utilized by any after-school caregivers.

Finally, McCann notes that parents should have honest and open conversations with their kids about the dangers of sharing intimate content online. This is particularly important when kids start dating to ensure they know about the risks of revenge porn and how consent works concerning intimately shared images. (“Having consent to have taken that picture does not mean that you have consent to share it—it doesn’t mean that you have consent to give it to other people,” McCann notes.)

Contact Matthew Bossons at

Matthew Bossons

About the Author: Matthew Bossons

I grew up in a suburb of Vancouver and studied journalism there before moving to China in 2014 to work as a journalist and editor.
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