A Community Shout Out For SOLOS

Giving is Receiving is a Vancouver, BC-based blog dedicated to shining a light on the numerous non-profit and charitable organizations in the Metro Vancouver area. Recognizing the spirit of generosity in most of these organizations, the author behind the blog—retired lawyer Patricia Sandberg—aims to make use of her newly-found time by acknowledging the often-unheralded work people do to make our communities better. Paying it forward, in other words.

With this in mind, she recently discussed the Safe Online Education Associates.

In a fairly lengthy overview of SOLOS’s work, Ms Sandberg begins with a quote from our website:

“Predators online are actively recruiting young people for exploitation in the street sex trade as well as manipulating young children into producing digital images of themselves which are then used as stimulation for pedophilic fantasies. All British Columbian youth are at-risk due to the newness of the medium, the lack of parental knowledge about online risks and lack of training to professionals about this emerging form of exploitation”.

She then goes on to link to her own recent articles about Canadians who wrestle with child exploitation both home and abroad.

The rest is her summary of a conversation she had with Merlyn Horton.

Among other things, they discuss the unique challenges the internet poses for First Nations youth, and the insidiousness of newer recruiting methods in which youth in very small communities can be more easily targeted and groomed for the sex trade than ever before. Isolation and social deprivation, as well as the relative lack of visibility compared to the street trade makes these young people especially vulnerable.

They also cover sexting, with the following pragmatic advice highlighted:

Don’t talk about sex online. Don’t send racy photos. Distribution of explicit photos by your phone or over the internet could be distribution of pornography which is a criminal offence. What impact will it have on you when your boyfriend decides to share it with his friends or the world. The information lasts forever. Do you want your employer to see it? One in five employers checks you out online before hiring. Photo recognition software can pick you out of the crowd.

The positive aspects of SOLOS are also covered, with education, the need for open discussion of safe practices, and awareness of current and emerging trends with regard to social media and technology, all given their due.

SOLOS even gets to brag a little, with a summary of its reach within British Columbia and even beyond (84,344 attendees at SOLOS presentations since 2002 certainly deserves a mention).

Best of all is how she allows Merlyn the last word, and it’s a good one: succinct and sobering. “Have values-based conversations with kids about pornography and sexuality. If you don’t, others will.”


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