Research: Leading the Way

A key function of Cybertip.ca relates to the collection, compilation, and analysis of statistics for research, education and policy development purposes. As Canada's national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, Cybertip.ca has a unique lens into the issue of child sexual exploitation, its victims and their vulnerabilities, and its perpetrators and their techniques.

The Cybertip.ca reporting process and related educational material is constantly updated and refined to remain current with the ever-changing world of technology. Statistics from the tipline provide an unbiased view on child sexual exploitation, as well as metrics for comparison with other countries/hotlines around the world.

  • Child Sexual Abuse Images: An Analysis of Websites by Cybertip.ca

    In partnership with Bell, Cybertip.ca released its first research report entitled Child Sexual Abuse Images: An Analysis of Websites by Cybertip.ca in November 2009. The report provided an overview of the information received through reports to the tipline, with a particular focus on websites that host child sexual abuse images. Nearly 16,000 websites hosted child pornography and close to 5,000 unique images were examined within this report.

    Some of the key findings include:

    • 82.1% of the images analyzed by Cybertip.ca depict very young, pre-pubescent children under 12 years old
    • Of the nearly 5,000 unique images assessed by analysts, over 35% show sexual assaults against children
    • 77.6% of webpages had at least one child abuse image of a child less than 8 years of age, with many showing infants and toddlers being assaulted
    • Images of children less than 8 years old most often depicted them being abused through sexual assaults (37.2%)
    • 83% of the images were of girl children

    A series of recommendations for educators, policy makers, law enforcement, and other stakeholders working to reduce the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children were put forward. This resulted in a series of changes to tipline’s operations, technical and policy development, as well as education and public awareness activities.

  • Luring, Grooming and Online Exploitation: An Analysis of Reports of Problematic Engagement with Youth

    Online luring refers to a process through which someone with a sexual interest in a child prepares them for future sexual contact. The Criminal Code (Canada) defines a luring offence as someone using telecommunications to communicate with someone they believe to be under the age of 18 years in order to facilitate committing an offence against that child.

    In August 2007, Cybertip.ca released its first luring report detailing the scope of the problem; including child victim, suspect, and reporting person profiles; as well as the techniques utilized by offenders to manipulate a child into compliance (grooming process). A second report was recently completed in September 2012. The study examined 264 reports made by the public to Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, about online luring between September 2007 and June 2011. Some reports about online luring came from family members of the young person being victimized as well as the victims themselves. A percentage of these reports also included text and chat logs, which aided researchers in further examining the interactions and techniques offenders used in luring children online. Preliminary results reveal:

    • 85.9% of identified victims were girls
    • The mean age of the victims was 13 years
    • The mean age of the suspects was 25
    • In 50% of the cases, reports were listed as being made by a family member, with almost 31% being made by the victim
    • In 24% of the cases, the young person was threatened by the suspect, with the largest number of threats involving the distribution of existing images of the victim
    • In 93.4% of the cases, suspects made specific requests for images or there was a discussion of previously uploaded images. In 30% of these particular cases, it was indicated that the young person had sent images to the suspect
    • In 38.6% of the cases, instant messaging was indicated as the technology used by suspects to lure victims
    • In 35.5% of the cases, suspects either sent victims sexual images of themselves, or requested the young person to go on webcam whereupon the young person would see a sexualized image of the suspect

    This research has enabled the exploration of the behaviour of both the child and the suspect and their interaction with each other. This important data has substantially aided our understandings of the vulnerability, resilience, and risks to youth, as well as in the behaviour in those offenders who seek to sexually exploit them. This knowledge has assisted in the further development and adaptation of prevention and educational materials.

  • Sexualized Child Modelling

    While the vast majority of the reports to Cybertip.ca pertain to child pornography, an increasing percentage constitutes images often described as sexualized child modelling content. This type of material is often found on websites purporting to be that of ‘child models’. The tipline processes approximately 5% of the reports under this category. Very little information exists regarding the severity and prevalence of sexualized child modelling in Canada. As the central location for the public to report the online sexual exploitation of children, Cybertip.ca is in a unique position to evaluate this information. In the coming year, Cybertip.ca will be releasing a research report on this growing issue.