Cst. Lindsey Donovan (left) of the RCMP Internet Child Exploitation Unit is seen here listening to SAERC vice-principal Rob Allan during a discussion regarding on-line child safety. The discussion took place on November 30 at the SAERC auditorium.

PORT HAWKESBURY: An important talk regarding children’s on-line safety took place last Thursday night at the SAERC auditorium.

“I know of over 800 people right now who have child pornography on their computer in Nova Scotia,” said RMCP Cst. Lindsey Donovan of the Internet Child Exploitation Unit. “With that, we take calls from people outside of Nova Scotia and internationally. It’s non-stop all the time.”

Donovan led a conversation about his work, fielding questions from teachers, the public, and the media. The presentation was a collaborative initiative by SAERC, the Nova Scotia Community College, and the Strait Area Interagency for the Prevention of Family and Sexualized Violence.

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A similar discussion was held at the NSCC Strait Area Campus earlier that day.

The discussion both times around focused on child sexual exploitation in Nova Scotia, the legislation in Canada surrounding these crimes, the various crimes themselves, and the RCMP’s role in combating these infractions.

Donovan started the discussion by defining child pornography. He also spoke of how intimate images can sometimes overlap with child porn, and how social media sites can be used to lure young people to pedophiles.

Child pornography is a depiction of someone under the age of 18 either nude or engaged in a sexual act. The dominant characteristic is that the image is sexual in nature. Material can also qualify as child pornography if it shows adults who are depicted as under 18. Such material can be photos, drawings, stories, or fall under other categories.

“If you had a picture of Bart and Lisa Simpson having sexual intercourse, that would be child pornography,” Donovan said.

Possession of one such image in Canada is 90 days in jail. Sentencing for related offenses, like luring children or distributing child porn, are far steeper.

“Always inquire about what your child is doing on-line,” Donovan said. “If your kid’s been on the computer for two hours, they should have to account for the time. If they say they were watching YouTube videos for two hours, be aware that’s an awful lot of YouTube videos. Just make them accountable, and don’t let them tell you just what you want to hear.

“If you don’t, you’ll be none the wiser until the police come knocking on your door or you hear ‘mom, I screwed up.’”

On-line predators can be found on virtually all social media sites and related apps. Indeed, the Canadian-based instant messaging mobile app called KIK Messenger did a search for images of child porn two years ago, and the result was over 10,000 images being flagged.

Donovan noted KIK is not necessarily a bad app. He named that app as representative of the problem all social media outlets face.

Nonetheless, there are people in cyberspace with whom parents certainly don’t want their kids interacting. Sending one sexual image on-line, Donovan said, is one too many. Often times, one image can be used to blackmail additional images from children.

“Most children commit offenses by taking photos of themselves when they’re supposed to be in bed,” he said, saying that parents would be well advised to keep internet-capable devices out of their kids’ bedrooms.

“If they can’t do their on-line work at the kitchen table, they shouldn’t do it anywhere else.”

Though it may not entirely fix the problem, one means of making sure kids remain safe on-line is a piece of computer hardware called Circle with Disney. The devise retails for $129.99 on Amazon.ca, and it allows parents to filter content and limit screen time as well as set a bedtime for every device in the home.