The following definitions can help teachers and other users, such as community police officers, to identify and understand the following elements within the Mirror Image game: harassment, cyber stalking, criminal harassment, child pornography and child luring.
The Ontario Curriculum, Health and Physical Education, Grades 1-8, revised (2015)) defines harassment as a form of discrimination that may include unwelcome attention and remarks, jokes, threats, name-calling, touching, or other behaviour (including the display of pictures) that insults, offends, or demeans someone because of his or her identity. Harassment involves conduct or comments that are known to be, or should reasonably be known to be, offensive, inappropriate, intimidating, and hostile.
It includes any overt, subtle, verbal or written comments or any physical conduct which places pressure on, ridicules, degrades, or expresses hatred based on a person’s sex or sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, race, ethnicity, cultural background, place of birth, religion, citizenship or ancestry.
Some examples are:
- unwanted, unwelcome physical contact like touching, grabbing or patting;
- sexual gossip;
- obscene phone calls;
- rude jokes or suggestive remarks of a sexual nature;
- demeaning nicknames;
- catcalls, rating, or embarrassing whistles;
- threats, abuse, or assault;
- sexually insulting remarks, including those about sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, culture, place of birth, religion, citizenship, ancestry, ability or class
It is not:
- a hug between friends;
- mutual flirtation;
- sincere and personal compliments.
These types of harassment can take place in person or over the Internet. Harassment of any kind is unacceptable both in and out of the school environment. Some forms of harassment, such as threats to physically harm someone and stalking, are also against the law.
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to repeatedly harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization in a menacing fashion. This could take the form of rude or threatening messages, slanderous information or repeated, unwanted messages.
How Cyberstalking Occurs
Cyberstalking occurs in a variety of ways. Often cyberstalking is an online component to offline stalking. Sometimes a cyberstalker fixates on a person he or she encountered online, including via public profiles or other regular Internet activity. It may be a particularly virulent and obsessive version of “trolling”, which is nasty online commentary that takes pleasure in making other users (or a particular user) uncomfortable or upset.
a. Anybody Could Be a Victim
The Internet offers a wide variety of social media sites and applications, hundreds of thousands of websites with personal profiles and photographs, online beauty contests, dating service websites, and sites dedicated to hobbies and sports. This wealth of information can be misused by people who cyberstalk. They can potentially amass a lot of information about the target of their unwanted attentions. Note that income, education, urban or rural setting makes no difference on who a cyberstalker will select.
b. Tracking the Victim
The Internet provides instant access to addresses, maps, telephone directories, and school websites. Many cyberstalkers create detailed lists of their victim’s activities each day of the week. This enhances the victims' fear that the cyberstalker will find them offline.
c. Disappearing without a Trace.
A cyberstalker whose identity is known can be cautioned by a restraining order or a visit from police. But a cyberstalker who uses the Internet only to mask his or her identity can be difficult to trace.
Cyberstalking and the Law
The Criminal Code of Canada makes reference to stalking as criminal harassment. It states that no person shall engage in repeated conduct (such as following, stalking, engaging in unwanted direct or indirect communication, or engaging in threatening behaviour) that causes the victim to fear for their safety or the safety of people known to them. These actions are all punishable by law. The victim’s fear for their safety must be reasonable. Most forms of online harassment do not qualify as criminal harassment.
When online harassment rises to the level of cyberstalking, children must confide in their parents/guardians, a teacher or a police officer. Adults are best situated to take the next step, which may be reporting the behaviour to their Internet Service Provider, the school board, the local police or the RCMP.
The production, distribution and possession of child pornography via the Internet causes a range of harm to children. Most child pornography is a recording, in photos or videos, of a child’s offline sexual abuse. The most direct harm is suffered by the child pictured in the image, as the sexual use of that image is a repeated and grave violation of that child’s rights. Most directly it repeatedly subjects the child pictured in the image to sexual abuse, violating his or her rights to bodily integrity, human dignity and privacy.
Child pornography may also serve as a tool in the arsenal of sexual predators who are engaged in the business of "grooming" and "luring" child victims. Here, examples of child pornography may be used by the offender to assure victims that sexual activity by children, including sexual activity with adults serve as proof to victims that children engaging in sexual acts is "normal." Predators are also known to solicit photos from children and youth, which also qualify as child pornography if they feature the child’s sexual organs. These photos may then become an irretrievable part of an international library of child pornography.
Indirectly, the widespread presence of child pornography on the Internet may fuel the fantasies of people with a sexual interest in children. Online communities of people who collect child pornography affirm and encourage each other’s sexual interests. They often swap information about how to evade detection, and even how to groom a child in order to produce more child abuse images.
How Child Pornography Occurs
The creation of child pornography has always been primarily at the hands of trusted caregivers, like family members and family friends. This continues to be the case in the internet age, although advances in and distribution of child pornography, once a backroom industry, has been radically transformed by computer and digital technology, such as smart phones and webcams. These advances have made the production and distribution of child pornography ever easier and even harder to detect. The Internet has facilitated afforded easy means to distribute and access child pornography, and people engaged in these practices have found ever more sophisticated means of hiding their activities online.
Children who are sexually abused rarely come forward on their own, and evidence indicates that children who know that images were taken of their abuse are even less likely to disclose the abuse to a trusted adult. Victims of child pornography need non-offending family members, other trusted adults in the child’s life (e.g. teachers), and police to notice signs of abuse and to create a safe environment for children to disclose.
A lot of public attention has focused on sexual images of young people that they have produced themselves – often referred to a “sexting”. Often the context for the creation of such images is different from core child sexual abuse images, because the youth consented (and was old enough to consent) to the sexual activity pictured. Naked images of a person under 18 could be considered child pornography, even though they are not engaged in sexual activity. However, these images, once distributed, can also enter into the vast international marketplace for child pornography, and may suffer similar emotional and psychological consequences as victims of child pornography.
Child Pornography and the Law
The Criminal Code of Canada defines Child Pornography as:
A photographic film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of 18 years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity or the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction of a sexual organ or anal region of an underage person.
Child luring is an illegal act whereby someone communicates with a child on the Internet for the purpose of committing a sexual offense against that child. Many of the sexual offences related to luring are connected to the age of consent, which prohibits adults from having sexual relations with children under 16. In certain instances however, such as crimes related to child pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation, the age of consent increases to include any child or youth under 18 years of age. Since 2002, the Criminal Code of Canada has criminalized child luring.
Children experiencing conflict in personal relationships may be at increased risk to cyber luring. They may look online for what is missing in their own lives or as an escape from their real life situation.
The number of police-reported sexual violations against children rose 30% from 2012 to 20131, and rose again in 2014, representing one of the few categories of violent violations to increase from the previous year. In 2014 there were approximately 4,500 police-reported sexual violations against children, about 300 more than in 2013, resulting in an increase of 6%2.
The increase in sexual violations against children was primarily the result of incidents of luring a child via a computer (including the agreement or arrangement to commit a sexual offence against a child), which increased from 850 incidents in 2013 to 1,190 incidents in 2014.
Various factors could account for the increase in sexual violations against children, such as specialized units within a police service to proactively investigate this type of crime.
How Child Luring Occurs
Child luring may occur over a long period of time, or it may occur fairly quickly, depending on the individual victim's susceptibility to the advances of the offender. Over the course of any Internet friendship, familiarity, trust and affection develop between the parties; the predator luring offenders take advantage of this trust and affection. Some predators are willing to travel thousands of miles and cross international borders to connect with their online victims. Many studies show, however, that most predators reside within 100 kilometers of the victim's home.
It is common for a predator to spend time quietly observing the dialogue in youth chat rooms. Such anonymous "spying" offers a means of identifying a vulnerable child and staying in synch with a chat room's dynamic. They stay current on issues, trends and cultural references that are important to their target age group. It is this knowledge that makes it easy to join in the conversation.
Once a conversation has been initiated, thepredator will devote a great deal of time and energy to establishing "trust" and a "friendship" with the target child. At the outset, conversations may appear normal. The predator, however, soon employs strategies to exploit the vulnerabilities of youth. They will demonstrate a "genuine" interest in the child and will go to great lengths to flatter the child and convey understanding for all aspects of his or her life. This attention leads to a "friendship" where confidences and secrets are shared.
Predators soon lure their victims into increasingly intimate conversations. They may send photos and then soft porn leading to more and more sexual conversations. Sexual content can also occur relatively early in the interaction: research indicates that most victims of child luring know that the person they are conversing with is an adult and also know that he is interested in sex. The victim may think that he or she is in a romantic relationship with the offender. At this point the predator might manoeuvre the child into meeting with him. Youth suffering from a lack of intimacy and those that have needs for friendship are the most vulnerable. Predators know that these troubled adolescents are looking for self-validation and companionship; these children are vulnerable as they lack the protective networks to safeguard them.
Since 2002, Cybertip.ca, Canada’s national online child protection website, noted that luring accounted for 10% of their reports, making it the second-largest category of complaint. The majority of these incidents involved luring adolescent girls.
Cyberluring and the Law
Canadian legislation prohibits the luring of children. Since 2002, the Criminal Code of Canada has criminalized electronic communication with a person believed to be a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of sexual offences. Internet luring of children is punishable by law. An offline meeting, or even an attempt to arrange an offline meeting, is not required for this offence: the conversation “facilitating” the future commission of a sexual offence is sufficient.
1Statistics Canada, Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2013 Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2014001/article/14040-eng.htm
2Statistics Canada, Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2015001/article/14211-eng.htm