Archive for the ‘Constant Connection to Technology’ Category

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.

Constant Connection Needs a Break

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Texting on a keyboard phone
Image via Wikipedia

Did you know that the average New Year’s resolution lasts 72 hours or less – about the same length of time a diet lasts? That means that on or about January 3, most people who made resolutions have forgotten or abandoned their plans for change.  This year, I resolve to exceed the average (how hard can that be?) and keep my resolution of finding a healthy balance between personal sacred time and the constant demands of social media.

No matter who you are, it seems like time is the one thing we can’t get enough of.  Whether you’re a student, a mother, a CEO, or Oprah, we all have the same amount of time:  24 hours in a day.  Everyone seems to run into time constraints, no matter how efficient we are or how many gadgets we’ve purchased to help us stay “in tune” and “on track.”  Now, thanks to the advancement of technology, most of us have the continuous demands of answering calls, text messages and e-mails, updating our Facebook and LinkedIn, and blogging or posting tweets.  All of which seem to steal our valuable and irreplaceable personal time out from under us.  How can we decide what to make a priority and what to let go for the sake of our own sanity?

But first, it’s time for me to be completely honest. I’m addicted to texting and e-mail, which is why I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to end my ongoing battle of being constantly connected.  I text all the time, and I have to respond to my texts the moment I hear my phone vibrate.  I’ve even written books about mobile messaging, and all the amazing things (and not so amazing) that technology offers… who does that?  When it comes to e-mail, I need to read them the second they arrive.  Does my constant need to check my iPhone interrupt my personal time?  Absolutely! Does it drive my husband crazy when I check my phone on Sunday mornings?  He can’t stand it, and he’s the first person to tell me that I need therapy, if such a program exists.

One thing’s for sure.  The demands of being constantly connected are never ending, and IF we don’t stop to smell the roses and start to “live in the moment,” we might all need to stage an intervention and check our loved ones (or ourselves) into Connective Addictive Therapy. 

How can we take back our personal time?  Do you remember the moment you lost it in the first place? For me, it started about five years ago when I got my first BlackBerry.  In the snap of a finger, I could instantly get my e-mail, text messages and access the Internet – even when I was away from my office.  I felt like I had died and gone to heaven! But after five plus years of being connected 24/7, I often feel like I’ve gone in the opposite direction. 

So, I’ve done what most of us do during this time of year.  I’ve examined my shortcomings and made it my New Year’s resolution to face my connective addiction. I’ve decided to send myself into social media rehab, and enter into the 5-step program that I’ve developed for people like me.  If you feel like you are overly connected and ready to take back the time that you’ve stolen from yourself, here’s how the program works:

1.     Put away your cell phone while you are with others, at work or driving (I keep mine in my handbag so it’s completely out of sight)

2.     Look at your phone no more than five times a day (unless you’re expecting an important call or a message) Once you’ve answered your messages, return it back to where it was.

3.     Limit your social networking time to no more than two sites, and to the amount of time that is right for your personal and professional objectives.

4.     On weekends and vacation time, limit your “constant connectivity” to urgencies and emergencies, so you can really enjoy the ones you choose to spend your personal time with. And don’t forget about “me” time.

5.     Schedule more quality time away from technology driven activities.

We all know it’s impossible (and unhealthy) to spend all of our time staring at our cell phones, iPads and computers AND preserve a healthy balance with our personal sacred time.  Yes, 2011 is upon us, so get with setting realistic goals, work hard to achieve them, and realize those changes you desire.  This may sound like a difficult undertaking, but if it was easy, we wouldn’t have this problem to begin with AND I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

Shawn Edgington is America’s leading “Texpert”, cyberbullying expert and the CEO of a National Insurance firm. She’s the author of Read Between the Lines and The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media, slated for release in January 2011. Shawn’s been profiled on Fox Business, Fox News Radio, in the San Francisco Chronicle, View from the Bay, NPR, CBS Radio, and dozens of media outlets around the country. Visit her at:

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