The unfortunate practice of “sexting” has spurred a new and more potentially damaging hazard into teen lives: Sextortion.
Sextortion describes blackmailing someone into performing sexual acts, ranging from posing for webcams to physical intercourse, and usually happens in the following way: a teen will upload revealing/embarassing photos or videos of him or herself via text, social network, or some other mean common to “sexting.” Then someone will find the photo or video, contact the teen, and blackmail them into some sort of sexual act, usually recorded via webcam or documented in other digital means.
These cases can go both ways, as we’ve read of teens who immediately turned the tables on their blackmailers and involved the police immediately. This is the best means that teens have to fight back: do not participate, and immediately turn the evidence over to their parents and the police.
Unfortunately, there have been several documented cases where teens have succumbed to the blackmailers demands, and in doing so have given the blackmailer even more control by providing him/her with more blackmail material.
Most cases begin by a teen providing blackmail material of their own free will, either by posting inappropriate pictures on web sites, or by “flashing” on a video chat or chatroom. One case in Wisconsin involved an 18-year-old male who posed as a girl on Myspace and tricked teen boys into sending him nude photos of themselves. He then used the photos to extort sex from the boys.
The main reason that kids succumb to the blackmailer’s demands is that they feel they are trapped and can’t go to their parents or the authorities. We have a few recommendations for how parents should deal with this:
* Block: Safe Eyes customers and should strongly consider blocking chatrooms (for this and many other good reasons) for children of all ages and monitoring both sides of IM conversations, as both are vehicles for both the initial sexting and blackmailing.
* Communicate: All parents should talk to their kids about this problem specifically and make sure that they know to tell if anyone is trying to make them do something that makes them uncomfortable. This part really can not be stressed enough.
* Teach:Parents should also remind teens that anything they text, post, or distribute electronically will be around FOREVER and to never put anything out there that they wouldn’t want on the front page of their school or local newspaper.