Will Your Child Be a Victim of Sextortion?

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.

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