Vol. 81, No. 4Just the facts

Cartoon image of a young girl standing locked in a wooden pillory with her hands and head immobilized. The pillory has the shape and look of a cellphone.

Cybercrime and youth

Cybercrime is on the rise in Canada, and young people aren't immune.

Cybercrime is any crime where the internet and information technologies, such as computers, tablets or mobile devices, play a large role in committing the offence. Read more about how online crimes are increasingly affecting young people — and what tips can prevent them.

Cybercrime in Canada

The RCMP breaks cybercrime into two categories:

  • Technology-as-target: Offences that target computers or other devices like hacking or mischief in relation to data.
  • Technology-as-instrument: Offences where information technologies are needed to commit the crime like identify theft and online child exploitation.

Statistics Canada reports that the number of cybercrimes reported to police in Canada is on the rise. In 2016, nearly 24,000 cybercrimes were reported to Canadian police. By 2018 that number climbed to almost 33,000.

Cybercrime costs Canada more than $3.12 billion a year, according to a 2017 report produced by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Cybercrime includes hacking, cyberstalking, online fraud, cyberbullying and child sexual exploitation.

Cybercrime and kids

Children, teens and and young adults are increasingly becoming victims — and perpetrators — of cybercrime.

Very little skill is required to become a cybercriminal. Research from the United Kingdom's National Crime Agency claims that free off-the-shelf hacking tools, online tutorials and video guides are making it easier for young people to get involved in cybercrime.

Peer influence and low self-control appear to be the major factors fueling juvenile cybercrime such as computer hacking and online bullying, according to a recent study led by a Michigan State University criminologist.

Criminal harassment and intimidation

Young people have the tools to bully others and be bullied online. According to PREVNet, a Canadian resource for bullying prevention, 94 per cent of Canadian youth have a Facebook account and, by Grade 10, 87 per cent have a cellphone.

PREVNet reports that 25 per cent of Canadian kids admit to cyberbullying. One in three report that they've been cyberbullied.

Cyberbullying affects victims in different ways than traditional bullying. It can follow a victim everywhere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from school, to the mall and into their home.

Child exploitation

Stats Canada reports that in 2018, there were more than 1,270 cases of luring a child through a computer in Canada.

So far in 2019, the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre has identified more than 40,000 cases of online child exploitation.

Sexting

It's illegal to send sexual photos or videos of anyone who is, or appears to be, under 18. This includes taking and sending sexual images of yourself if you're under 18.

Aside from being illegal, sexting by youth aged 12 to 17 is linked to other risk factors: multiple sexual partners, anxiety, depression and substance abuse, according to an analysis of information by the University of Calgary.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada said young people of legal age have a right to share sexual images of themselves if: the image is sent voluntarily between consenting individuals who are close in age, the image doesn't depict abuse or assault, and the image stays private.

Prevention tips

Cybercrime can affect anyone, including young people. The following tips can help guard against becoming a victim:

  • Don't share passwords and don't use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Never reply to calls, emails or texts that ask you to verify your information or confirm your user ID or password.
  • Set your social-networking profiles to private.
  • Download applications only from trusted sources.
  • Think twice before you click on a link or a file.
  • Don't feel pressured by any emails or texts.

If you are a victim:

  • Report criminal offences, such as threats, assaults and sexual exploitation to your local police department.
  • Report unwanted text messages to your telephone service provider.
  • Report online bullying to the social media site and block the person responsible.
Date modified: