Bad news for parents: according to New Jersey law enforcement officials and the FBI, sextortion cases are on the rise, and far too many of then go unreported.
Sextortion is the act of coercing or blackmailing a victim – often a minor – to obtain compromising or nude photos or video using the threat of exposing the victim to family and friends, usually by sharing previously taken images.
The sinister set up is fairly simple. The perpetrator, usually an older man, sets up a fake social media or messaging app profile and pretends to be a teen around the age of his intended victims. He then sends friend requests and messages until he has established a “relationship” with a victim. After an initial exchange of images, he will ask for more that are increasingly intimate. Once the victim has sent one that is scandalous enough that the victim would be mortified if her friends or family found out, the perp threatens to do just that unless more media is delivered. This can go on for a long time and usually ends badly.
If your child has a smartphone, laptop or computer and at least occasional unrestricted access, he or she is potentially at risk. What are parents to do?
Communicate – Begin talking to your child about the risks of both meeting strangers online and sending risqué images before they are given their first connected device. If they already have one, start talking now, even if the child is young.
Monitor – You don’t need to track every keystroke, but you should be generally aware of what you child or doing online, and who she in talking to.
Be available – Your child should know, without any doubt, that any time she feels uncomfortable or at risk because of something happening online she can come to you. Even if what she has done to get into the situation was stupid, put off sending that message until you’ve rectified the problem. Use difficult situations as learning opportunities.
It’s tempting to think that since you’ve raised a “good kid”, this could never happen to him or her. It does, so try to stay on top of things.
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