A new child protection initiative aims to highlight the potential dangers for adults using dating apps. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is calling on the public to exercise vigilance while using dating apps, emphasizing the risk of exploitation of children and the sharing of sensitive information and images. The campaign urges parents using these apps to refrain from divulging excessive details about their children.
Citing data from the Australian Institute of Criminology, the campaign warns parents that predators may target single parents through dating apps to gain access to their children. Tactics include questioning parents about their children or coercing them into sharing explicit photos.
In an online release, the center emphasizes the “inherent risks associated with sharing information and pictures of your children online, including on dating apps.” It references an online manual authored by offenders offering advice on dating apps, primarily targeting male offenders seeking single mothers.
Signy Arnason, the center’s associate executive director, notes that offenders on dating apps look for specific indicators to identify vulnerable individuals. “While it’s understandable that you go online for dating, the challenge arises when you explicitly mention having children. Unfortunately, in forums related to child sexual abuse on the dark web, offenders discuss methods to identify vulnerable women on dating apps,” Arnason stated.
“It’s crucial to exercise caution from the outset. Although it’s necessary to disclose that you have children at some point, sharing their photos or advertising their presence online, especially in the early stages, is something we want people to be mindful of, as it’s a focus for the offending community.”
Arnason stresses the importance of recognizing red flags while using dating apps, such as individuals showing immediate interest in one’s children. “If someone displays a keen interest in your children right from the start, that should raise a flag,” Arnason advised.
A key preventative measure, as outlined by the campaign, is to avoid including information about one’s children on dating profiles. Setting boundaries, the campaign emphasizes, is paramount.
A survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology in October 2022, involving over 9,900 participants, revealed that one in ten respondents had encountered someone on a dating app or website requesting photos of their children or children they knew. Half of these respondents reported feeling pressured to provide explicit photos of the children.