ABSTRACT

Child protection, particularly from child sexual exploitation, has been and continues to be a priority for many countries, especially Canada and the United States. Although child sexual exploitation is unfortunately not a new phenomenon, the nature of this threat in terms of the ways in which it is facilitated has changed significantly (Public Safety Canada, 2015). A key factor contributing to the sexual exploitation of children in today’s society is the Internet. Although technological advances have brought forth many positive aspects, this chapter examines some of the negative impacts of the Internet in regard to online child sexual exploitation, and more specifically, the need to reframe who poses a risk to youth and children within this context. The anonymity afforded by the Internet, its wide accessibility, and its associated lack of accountability (Cooper, 1998) all work together to create a social environment conducive to online child sexual exploitation; this online reality needs to inform our approaches to child protection broadly, and education and awareness efforts more specifically. An important factor that needs to be re-examined are the ways in which we teach youth and children about online and offline safety, and how we conceptualize offenders within child sexual exploitation education and awareness initiatives.