MONTREAL -- Quebec provincial police and their Montreal counterparts say they have noted an increase in reports of minors being sexually exploited online and are warning parents to be particularly vigilant of their children's Internet use during confinement.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, the Surete du Quebec and the Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal said they have received a higher than usual number of reports of minors being sexually exploited over the Internet.

The forces said the increased incidence of such cases can be attributed to the increased amount of time young people are spending online during this period of widespread confinement due to public health orders aimed at combatting the spread of COVID-19.

The SQ and the SPVM, both of whom have squads dedicated to fighting online sexual exploitation of minors, said that this kind of exploitation can take on various forms, whether it be an adult trying to get a minor to send them sexually explicit photos or arrange some kind of sexual encounter, or whether it be an adult pretending to be a fellow minor in hopes of achieving the same result.

Other times, minors themselves share sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves or other minors without realizing that what they are doing is illegal and dangerous, police say.

The police forces are asking parents to speak to their children about the risks of sexual exploitation online, to tell them never to share any kind of personal information or images with strangers online, and to never agree to meet a stranger they met online in person.

Parents should also set up safety controls on their children's Internet-enabled devices, keep home computers in a communal area, and tell children to alert them to any suspicious encounters they have with strangers online, police say.

They are asking parents who suspect cases of sexual exploitation of minors online to contact their local police force.