There are a lot of ifs in this world that literally stop us in our tracks.

For example, if only 12-year-old Carson Cleland from Prince George would have told someone about his being a victim of “sextortion,” he’d still be alive today. But he was so devastated that he felt his only escape was suicide. If only he understood that he wasn’t alone; that there was another way out.

Online sextortion occurs too frequently in Canada, with Prince George RCMP reporting 62 reported cases this year. Hence, they are urging parents to have heart-to-heart discussions with their children about this topic. 

The shame and stigma attached to sextortion is huge, which is why young girls, and now more boys, are preyed upon. Do you know who your child is chatting with at all hours of the night? Are they trusted friends or strangers? Better find out before you end up anchored with grief like Carson’s parents, who only came forward in hopes to save the life of another child caught up in this nightmare.

Yes, Billy, there are real monsters in this world. They’re not in your closet or under your bed, they’re in cyberspace waiting for you to make a mistake by sending them personal information or intimate photographs that can haunt you forever. 

Children must understand that sending a photo online is not a one-time-gone-forever situation. 

Carson’s death reminds many of the tragedy of 15-year-old Amanda Todd who committed suicide after falling victim to sextortion and online bullying. She flashed her breasts to a predator and paid the ultimate price. Sadly, like Carson, she saw no way out other than taking her own life and leaving a mountain of grief in her wake.

Ashley Reynolds, another victim of sextortion, became a “slave” to an online predator when she was 14 years old. See sent pictures of herself in hopes to end the lurid game, but it only continued. She was too embarrassed to tell her parents, and when they finally found out, it was a big relief to Ashley because she was no longer alone. 

Once again, parents are urged to bring this topic up with their children. Tell your child, no matter what happens, they will always be loved. Even though the word ‘suicide’ is still a taboo subject, which it shouldn’t be, ask your child about it and assure them that immediate support is always available; they are not alone.  

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text the Suicide Crisis Helpline at 9-8-8. You can also reach out to Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645. The  Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868 or via text 686868.

Lyonel Doherty, editor