A New Crime Is Plaguing Our Teens, And Most Are Unaware Of The Dangers

Parents today are well aware of the dangers facing our kids.  Every day, a new warning seems to come out about hazards and threats to our children.

Today’s moms and dads must be more vigilant than ever before.  Our kids are growing up in an ever-changing world; one of cultural decay and the breakdown of the traditional values.  Sadly, as we continue to evolve in all of our advancements and technology, it becomes more difficult to keep our kids safe.

Online dangers are some of the most frightening and hard for parents to monitor.  Now, a new threat is on the rise – one that most teens and parents are painfully uninformed about.

The crime of “sextortion” is perhaps one of the darkest committed in the digital world in which our teens live, and potentially the most traumatic emotionally.

Cases of sextortion are most often perpetrated by current or former romantic partners, looking to humiliate a former partner or seek revenge for an unwanted breakup.  Statistics show that over 80 percent of the victims are women, and almost half of both male and female victims are under the age of 18.

The Cyberbullying Research Center reported:

The researchers state that sextortion involves threats to expose a sexual image in order to make a person do something or for other reasons, such as revenge or humiliation. I like this definition as it is broad. Other definitions state that the sexual image is used only to extort additional sexual content or sexual activity. While the perpetrator typically is interested in that end game, we’ve also seen cases where the goal was a monetary payment, ruining a reputation, or to get the target to do something else she/he wouldn’t normally do.

Most victims of sextortion, like other forms of sexual harassment, do not report the crime to the police for fear of not being believed or for their reputation to be damaged.  Like other online predators, this is exactly what the perpetrators hope for.

One of the causes of sextortion is that teens in relationships increasingly send sexually-explicit text messages — “sexting” – to people they are dating.  These messages often include pictures that were voluntarily sent to the perpetrator during the relationship.  When a relationship ends, especially if it ends badly, these photos can come back to haunt the person who sent them when a perpetrator threatens to post them on social media or in group messages in order to exact revenge.

Often our teens see nothing wrong with sending nude or explicit photos of themselves to someone they trust.  But this is a grave and dangerous mistake made by kids who lack the maturity and understanding of the consequences of sending anyone personal or intimate information by digital means.

Parents must have an open discussion about the dangers of what can happen when sending “sexts” or risque photos, and continue to openly communicate with them while monitoring their online activity.  This is not only important to teach our daughters, but also our sons, to make sure their teen becomes neither a victim or a perpetrator.

Few teens understand the legalities behind sending sexually explicit information over the internet, and few realize the permanence of this mistake.  Once a photo is shared online, it never completely disappears.

Sextortion is a complex crime, and teens who have been victims of this crime must be encouraged to come forward to prevent further danger to them and to bring awareness to others.

Many teen perpetrators may think sextortion is a harmless prank or claim it was done in a moment of anger or frustration without thinking of the consequences, but the penalties can be severe and are far-reaching, including possible federal charges.

As sextortion is increasingly on the rise and the dangerous consequences have come to the attention of law enforcement, state and federal agencies including the FBI have implemented harsh penalties.

Due to the nature of the crime and the fact that it is committed on the web, the charges can include extortion, blackmail, bribery, child pornography (if the victim is a minor, as is often the case), and cyberstalking.  Law enforcement agencies are taking this seriously, and these charges, especially sexual exploitation of a minor, can bring a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Kids and teens do not have the maturity to understand the severity of the consequences of participating in any kind of sexting or sextortion.  While it may seem harmless to them at the time, it can have devastating effects.  Cases of sextortion are leading not only to these stiff legal penalties for the perpetrator, but has led to cases of extreme depression, anxiety, and even suicide in its victims.

The rising incidence of these crimes comes in the wave of cyberbullying and stalking cases that have skyrocketed in recent years due to the constant use of cell phones and other devices by teens.

Scarymommy.com reported on what to look for as a parent, and what teens should know in order to avoid becoming a victim with tips taken from the website Thorn.  This site that has brought the crime of sextortion into the public eye, and works to encourage teens to report cases to the police, while offering advice and support on the subject.

  • Sit down and talk to your kids about the uncomfortable things. Show them our video. Ask questions. Talk to other parents. Learn about the apps your kids are using because it could save their lives.”
  • Keep learning about the apps and technology your kids are using. Never stop asking questions and familiarize yourself with the apps by playing with them yourself. Knowledge is power.
  • Be there unconditionally.  Kids need to know that if they make a mistake, they won’t get punished.
  • Talk to your kids about online safety. Ask them these questions as conversation starters: Has anyone sent you a sexual picture or a sext? Has anyone asked or pressured you to send a sexual picture or a sext? Do you think it’s okay to forward sexual or embarrassing images?
  • Spread the word.  Talk to other parents. Let them know what apps your kids are using.
  • Advocate for change. Understand the laws in your state for sextortion and revenge porn and figure out where they are lacking. Lobby your local lawmakers to write tougher laws and educate them about the problems in your area.

As with any other danger facing our teens today, we as parents must be aware and involved.  We must be open to listen, encouraging and supporting our kids and teens unconditionally.  Whether a teen is a victim or perpetrator of sextortion, the consequences can be tragic.  Approaching our kids with honesty and an open mind will lead them to trust us with the problems they face.

Mommy Underground has previously reported on the prevalence of online predators and what you can do to keep your kids safe. Be sure to share our tips and advice for keeping your family safe – from moms just like you.

Have you heard of “sextortion?”  Has your child or someone they know experienced this new online threat?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments section.

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