Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Sextortion: The Newest Internet Ugly

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

What I’m referring to is sextortion:  sexual blackmail of children and teens online just like you.  Because most teens are extremely trusting, especially when it comes to social networks, you’re an easy target, which makes this an even more difficult trend to stomach.                                                                                                                        

Here’s how sextortion works: Online predators, ex-boyfriends or frenemies get a hold of inappropriate photos or videos of you by way of email, text, hacking, social networks or chatrooms, and then threaten complete humiliation if they don’t get what they ask you for.  These criminals threaten they will post or send the inappropriate content to your parents, friends, family, teachers, coaches or bosses, make demands for money, or even threats of physical harm.  SCARRY!

Sextortionists are experts at getting what they want, knowing that teens will be too afraid to tell anyone what’s happening to them, especially their parents, leaving them in the driver’s seat to get exactly they want. Children and teenagers just like you can quickly become trapped in a silent cycle of online sexual exploitation, every parent’s worst nightmare.

From experience, we already know that every teen is vulnerable to the online “ugly” side of the Internet, which comes with being constantly connected.  As an adult and a cyber safety expert, it’s my responsibility to speak openly about what to do should you ever become a victim.

It’s important for you to:

  • Get informed, ignorance isn’t bliss. Understand what sextortion is, and promise yourself that you’ll go to your parents should you ever become the target of a sextortionist – NO MATTER WHAT.
  • Set all security and privacy settings to private & set alerts. Keep all of your profiles on social networks private, even after you turn 18-years-old.  Creeps never get tired of trying, especially when they can hide behind a fake profile on a social network.  Set a Google Alerts for your name, which will let you know the instant something terrible or embarrassing tagged with your name gets posted online.
  • Messages, photos or videos you send by text are never private. They have the ability to be saved, edited, forwarded, posted onto Facebook or uploaded to YouTube in the matter of seconds, where they sit perfectly poised for Sextortionists to use against you.
  • Don’t trust people online you don’t know! Never trust anyone online you don’t know in real life, and to always report any contact you’ve received from strangers to a trusted adult.
  • Don’t text anything you wouldn’t want your mom to see. I often hear stories from teenage girls about the sexy photo that was sent without a single thought of where it might end up.  And sure enough, the photo was inevitably forwarded out to friends, strangers, predators, parents and teachers for people to pass judgment on and potentially use against them.
  • Be aware. Criminals, online predators and backstabbers can use your private pictures against you.  If you think your sext is only going to be seen by your intended recipient, think again. Once it’s out there, it’s out there for everyone to see.  It’s no fun to be embarrassed or belittled, threatened, or coerced online – especially by those you know, let alone those you don’t.


It’s a fact that social media has become the focal point of your life, and it’s time that we adults face it.  Sextortion is not only the newest Internet “ugly,” but it’s a trend that requires all teens to take seriously, and become aware that Sextortionist experts are out they looking for teens and young children to prey on.

Remember, promises get broken, boyfriends become ex’s, and friends become frenemies. Unfortunately it’s the reality that you live in today, so be careful with who you trust, and don’t record or send anything that can come back to bite you.

Facebook: A Teens Perspective

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Hey, if your reading this my name is Joel, unlike other teenagers that are my age I choose to not have a Facebook. Everyone my age at one point has been asked the inevitable question, “Can you add me as a friend?” Status, friendship, the family gossip mill and wanting to share our thoughts constantly, what is it that makes social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook so appealing to teenagers?

To find out why teenagers find Facebook and other social networking sites are so popular, I went straight to the source and interviewed some of my friends at my high school.

I go to a relatively small private Christian school in Kissimmee, Florida called Life Christian Academy. With around one hundred and twenty kids in my high school, the social scene is pretty much the same as any other high school, rumors, drama, the usual. So to find out better why teens use social networking I put on my best Bryan Williams impersonation and headed off. In total, I interviewed twelve people, each one of them of a different background, status and age.

One of the funniest interviews of my day was when I got to talk to a girl who is a lot like a tom-boy, always the first one to jump into a dare. She was very blunt and explained that Facebook was her “bad habit.”  I thought it was really interesting when she said, “Its weird how you can get sucked up in it, no matter if you’re a gothic kid or a kid from the hood.”

Another fun interview was with one of my guy friends; he is loud, to say the least. Throughout my questioning he kept asking me why I didn’t have a Facebook, and kept trying to turn the questions back to me. But one of the questions I got him to answer was if he knew anyone that had been negatively affected using the social network giant. With a funny expression on his face, he answered, “Well if you really wanna know, I knew this girl named Cindy… last year she made a fake profile to find out about a guy that she had a crush on so she could talk to him. Ultimately, a friend of Cindy spoke about what she was doing behind her back. Eventually the boy found out and now makes fun of her with his friends whenever she’s near.

Another girl that I interviewed told me that she is using Facebook, to talk to her friends. I asked her if her parents had a Facebook and she told me that they do, but she blocks them on her page. As I started to think about what she said, suddenly it hit me. I was noticing a pattern.                                      

Ultimately I came to this conclusion, for teenagers we feel the need to express ourselves. We feel that we are not heard so we turn to the Internet and other outlets of expression. Any way that we can let our voice out to the world, to have others know how we feel at a certain instance in life we’ll do it, and that is why it is so easy to get in trouble using social networks.

I’ve noticed that some of the ways teenagers can get in trouble using these websites is when they start to gossip or let their negative emotions out in comments or blogs. Some of their emotions negatively impact people. Like the saying goes, what you post on the Internet is there to stay; you already posted them and cannot take them back. Teens get in trouble when they post on their wall or “tweet” when they are trying to “vent” out their emotions. Sure you can delete a post afterwards, but once you press send, you can not take back what your friends have seen.

What’s worse is when job recruiters look at your page or family members see it because once something is said, your entire reputation or perception of you can be tarnished in an instant. As teenagers, we don’t think about the future.  We mostly just think about the “now”. We forget how posting certain things can affect us down the road, and need to be reminded – often.

Another way that teenagers get in trouble is when they start to obsess over their profile and it gets in the way of normal interaction. An example of this are some of my friends, everyday at lunch my two best friends let nothing get in the way of checking up their Facebook. I watch them at lunch and instead of actual talking they prefer updating their status or tweeting about their day. So to put it simply, when social networking or texting takes up all of your time and distracts you from daily tasks like studying for a big exam, or from time with the family, you know you have a problem. As with everything, we need to keep it in moderation.

So what is the best way to stay out of trouble when networking online? There’s the option to not to have a Facebook at all, but we know that that’s just too unrealistic for teens in our digital age…

 -Joel Rodriguez, Age 16  Intern Writer for Shawn Edgington

Today is National Cyber Safety Awareness Day!

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Has your child ever been the victim of cyberbullying? If not, the odds are pretty high that one day he or she will be. The sad fact is 50% of teens admit to being bullied online or by text message.

Today’s youth are falling victim to the perils of social media and cell phone messaging. And most parents are WITHOUT the tools to help their kids. Are you one of them?

Introducing The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook, and Social Media: Understanding the Benefits and Dangers of Parenting in a Digital World by Shawn Marie Edgington. All royalties from today’s sales of this book will be donated to the Megan Meier Foundation to protect children from cyberbullying as well as great cyber safety bonus gifts with today’s $10.00 purchase on Amazon!

The author, Shawn Marie Edgington, is America’s leading “Texpert” and cyberbullying prevention expert. Shawn is on a mission to help protect our kids against the dangers that exist on the wild, wild web, and wants every parent to know that no child is immune. As Dr. Oz’s new Sharecare.com expert, she plans to provide her expertise to help both parents and teens get the advice they need.

Cyberbullying is a REAL threat to teens. Educate yourself and protect your children from online predators! GET THE BOOK TODAY: http://theparentsguidebook.com/

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Shawn Marie Edgington is America’s leading Texpert, a cyberbullying prevention expert and your go-to cyber safety mom.  Shawn’s the author of Read Between the Lines: A Humorous Guide to Texting with Simplicity and Style, and the new book The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media, the creator of the One-Click Safety Series and the founder of The Social Media Academy.  She’s the CEO of a national insurance firm, where she provides risk management to clients across the country.

After a horrible, personal experience she had with her 16-year-old daughter being threatened by text and on Facebook, Shawn has made it her mission to show parents how to take the steps necessary to prevent their child’s social and mobile networking from turning into every parent’s one-click nightmare.

Shawn provided her expert advice in the upcoming documentary Submit: The Virtual Reality of Cyberbullying, on Fox Business, View from the Bay, KRON 4 News, The San Francisco Chronicle, CBS Radio, American Cheerleader Magazine, CNN Radio, NPR, and various media outlets across the country.

Meet Shawn or learn more about her new book and to get your free parent resources at: www.shawnedgington.com

Could Your Teen Be Arrested for Sexting?

Friday, April 1st, 2011

It seems like a new sexting story is in the news every other week. Sadly, despite the highly publicized devastation these incidents cause, teens continue sexting. Another such case recently hit the news recounting the story of an eighth grader who sent a nude picture of herself to her boyfriend.  In less than 24 hours, the picture had gone viral in four local middle schools in Olympia, Washington. The county prosecutor charged three students with the dissemination of child pornography, a Class C felony.  Not only was the girls ex-boyfriend, but his friend and the girls best friend. Many parents and students were surprised by the legal issues raised. (Read full article here)

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Shawn Marie Edgington is America’s leading Texpert, a cyberbullying prevention expert and your go-to cyber safety mom.  Shawn’s the author of Read Between the Lines: A Humorous Guide to Texting with Simplicity and Style, and the new book The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media, the creator of the One-Click Safety Series and the founder of The Social Media Academy.  She’s the CEO of a national insurance firm, where she provides risk management to clients across the country.

After a horrible, personal experience she had with her 16-year-old daughter being threatened by text and on Facebook, Shawn has made it her mission to show parents how to take the steps necessary to prevent their child’s social and mobile networking from turning into every parent’s one-click nightmare.

Shawn provided her expert advice in the upcoming documentary Submit: The Virtual Reality of Cyberbullying, on Fox Business, View from the Bay, KRON 4 News, The San Francisco Chronicle, CBS Radio, American Cheerleader Magazine, CNN Radio, NPR, and various media outlets across the country.

Meet Shawn or learn more about her new book and to get your free parent resources at: www.shawnedgington.com.

Facebook Plays a Major Role in Egyptian Protests

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Facebook is proving to be an asset in times of political unrest and mayhem for the thousands of Egyptians who have taken their battle to the streets last week in hopes to de-throne their 30-year-old government. 

A Facebook page created by an anonymous activist has played a major role in the country’s protests, rallying thousands to Egyptian’s to rise up and fight against their President, Hosni Mubarak who is said to use torture against its people to stay in power.

The Egyptian government has repeatedly shut down access to the Internet over the past week, but the Facebook page created by an anonymous activist, “We are all Khaled Said” continues to stay active with over 36,500 fans as of January 31st, 2011   “We were tortured, humiliated and lived in injustice & poverty for 30 years despite our enormous resources” , and “Nothing justifies the continuation of this dictator” the activist wrote on the page’s wall earlier today.

According to the Facebook page, Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian from the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, was tortured to death at the hands of two police officers. Several eye witnesses described how Khalid was taken by the two policemen into the entrance of a residential building where he was brutally punched and kicked. The two policemen banged his head against the wall, the staircase and the entrance steps. Despite his calls for mercy and asking them why they are doing this to him, they continued their torture until he died according to many eye witnesses.

Khaled has become the symbol for many Egyptians who dream to see their country free of brutality, torture and ill treatment. Many young Egyptians are now fed up with the inhuman treatment they face on a daily basis in streets, police stations and everywhere. Egyptians want to see an end to all violence committed by any Egyptian Policeman. Egyptians are aspiring to the day when Egypt has its freedom and dignity back, the day when the current 30 years long emergency martial law ends and when Egyptians can freely elect their true representatives.

Did you ever think that Facebook’s technology and reach would help bring a government like Egypt’s to its knees?

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Shawn Marie Edgington is Americas leading “Texpert” and cyberbullying prevention expert.  She’s the author of “Read Between the lines: A Humorous Guide to Texting with Simplicity and Style” and “The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media”, which is slated for release in February of 2011. 

Shawn has been profiled on Fox Business, Fox News Radio, in the San Francisco Chronicle, View From the Bay, KRON 4 News, NPR, CBS Radio, The Leslie Marshall Show, InfoTrak, The John Carney Show, Mom’s the Word, The San Diego Union, American Cheerleader Magazine, CNN Radio and dozens of radio stations around the country.

After a personal experience she had with her 16-year old daughter being threatened by text and on Facebook, she’s made it her mission to help parents “parent” around technology. Her solution?  Shawn’s developed The One-Click Safety Kit, a turnkey program that helps families defend against sexting, online predators, cyberbullies and textual harassment.                               

  http://www.shawnedgington.com

Mobile Messaging Offers Student Support in Oakland California

Friday, January 21st, 2011

This week several schools in Oakland, California started a new “text-a-tip” program. The program allows students and community members to alert campus police directly about potential and dangerous problems with cell phone text messages using specialized technology from Guest Assist. If your child is ever caught in an emergency situation, text messaging is the technology you want them to have immediate access to. The technology associated with mobile messaging offers benefits to students and educators that phone calls can’t:

  •  A way to instantly report critical and life threatening information anonymously
  • Concerned friends and parents have a way to report issues about drinking, drugs or violence
  • Harassment by bullies (including cyberbullies) can be reported without concerns of retaliation

Why don’t more schools offer this service?  The cost runs about $2 per student on an annual basis.  For a school with 3000 students, we are talking about $6,000 a year to offer mobile messaging support for our students.  Kudos to Pete Sarna, the Chief of Police for Oakland Public Schools – serious forward thinking that will benefit everyone involved!

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Will Your Child Be a Victim of Sextortion?

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Sextortion; a new term and a growing concern for parents to watch out for occurs when a person uses guilt, power, or knowledge of a certain secret, to force another person into providing sexually explicit photos, having sex or performing sexual favors.

Sextortion is one of the “crimes of choice” that Internet predators use to gain access into their targets personal life.  Predators that practice sextortion pressure their victims to give them sexually explicit photos and/or favors in exchange for their secrecy of previously obtained private information or for a promise to hold off on future violent acts.

Predators generally target teens or young adults on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.  Once they gain trust by pretending to be someone they aren’t, they ask for more: “If you don’t give me more of what I want (sexually explicit photos) or if you don’t meet me for sex, then I’m going to post the sexually explicit photo or information you’ve already given me to destroy your life.”

Take the sextortion case that occurred in the Milwaukee area with, an 18-year-old former New Berlin high school student who is serving 15 years in prison for sextortion.  Anthony, an honor student, got more than 30 boys to send him naked photos of themselves …by posing as a female on Facebook. He then blackmailed several boys into sexual acts by threatening to share those pornographic images if they said “no.”

In 2010, there have been ongoing acts of sextortion occurring at universities across the country.  A predator is preying on sorority pledges by first studying their Facebook profile and then approaches them using Facebook, pretending to be a sorority sister or an alum. The first communications seem harmless to unsuspecting freshman, yet are obvious attempts to gain trust. Subsequent Facebook chats and e-mails get creepy, with requests for naked pictures, followed by threats to reveal secrets and commit violent acts. The dozen or so victims to date attend southwest schools: University of Florida, Florida State University, Auburn University, University of Alabama and Louisiana State University.  So far, several college students have actually provided their assailant with naked photos.  Here’s an interesting stat:

  • Out of the people who report sharing nude photos of themselves to others online, almost a third of them have shared these photos with people they only know online … or with people they’ve never met face-to-face.

What’s important about sextortion is that parents should teach their children:

1. Not to trust anyone they don’t know online,

2. Keep their profile private, even after they turn 18-years-old

3. Make sure they report any online contact they’ve received from online strangers who are asking for personal and/or creepy information.

Most importantly, teens and young adults need to understand that when they take these types of photographs… or if they turn “on” their web camera for strangers, the person on the receiving end can easily record, and spread the information anywhere they choose.