Sextortion – What Parents Need To Know

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“It’s a case of digital rape in the 21st century.”  That’s how SSP Blue founder and Internet-safety advocate, Hemanshu Nigam, referred to sextortion.  Never heard of sextortion? You’re not alone, which is exactly why this issue has never been more vital to the safety and privacy of our children, both online and offline.

Sextortion is when an online sex predator blackmails another person, typically a tween boy or girl, into performing sex acts for them via webcam. The blackmail stems from a nude photo or video of the victim that the predator already has in his/her possession. If the victim tries to get away from the predator’s demands, they are threatened with mass distribution of the original photos/videos to the victim’s family members and friends.

Here’s a video from Fox News covering the topic.

Sextortion Isn’t New – 

Take the 40-year-old man from Massachusetts last year.  He was on posing as a 17-year-old and soliciting girls for nude photos, videos, and web chats. (Learn more about Stickam)

Or the 18-year-old high school senior, Anthony Stancl, who posed as a girl on Facebook to get nude photos of his fellow male classmates. Anthony is currently serving 15 years in prison.

As parents, we need to step up and do what we can to make our children Internet-safety smart.  For example, if a child lives in a bad neighborhood, he/she has to adapt to that neighborhood and become street smart.  That doesn’t mean they participate in the activities that make the neighborhood bad; it means they learn how to protect themselves from becoming a victim.  That’s exactly what the Internet is; it’s a city that’s full of a lot of really great neighborhoods and a bunch of not-so-great neighborhoods, and we as parents have to do all we can to make our kids street smart–or in this case, Internet-safety smart. 

Five Things Parents Can Do – 

From Internet-safety blog, Digital 

1.  Beginning when they’re young, start the dialogue (in an age appropriate manner) with your children about appropriate behaviors when they use the computer. The Internet is not some OTHER life; it is part of their life. What they do on the Internet has real consequences in real life. […]  As your child enters the tweens and teens, be REAL. Be frank and honest about posting suggestive images on the Internet.  

A child’s youth is a crucial time for you to educate them about the consequences of posting risky photos and videos online.  

Recently, a mother asked me, “What should I do if my daughter is posting pictures of herself in a bikini online?”  I told her, “Ask her: Would you come downstairs in a bikini if we were having a family reunion dinner party?  Would you feel comfortable in front of those people in a bikini?”  Sometimes it helps to put things in perspective for our kids. 

2.  Keep your anti-virus up to date! One of the recent sextortion cases was made possible through the exploitation of over 200 computers via something called Malware. If you don’t know what that is, Wikipedia defines it as, “…malicious software…designed to infiltrate a computer system without the owner’s informed consent.” In addition to an anti-virus program, you should have a malware application installed on your computer.

Here’s a link to some suggested anti-malware software programs. Keeping your computer’s anti-virus software up-to-date is crucial.  It not only prevents accidental clicks to malicious sites, but it prevents third-party software from automatically installing on your browser or your computer’s hard drive.

3.  Use parental control software. Just keep in mind that good parental control software is never 100% fool-proof and doesn’t replace good parenting. The best thing you can do is talk to your children and even more importantly, listen to them. Parental controls just provide you with another tool in your parenting arsenal to be able to have a corrective discussion with you children and address any issues which you may not have otherwise been privy to until they’ve become larger problems.

4.  Choose an Internet-safety blog, or three, and make time to read them on a regular basis.  

I recommend, Linda Criddle’s, Cammie Moise’s, and of course, Tshaka Armstrong’s Digital Shepherds.

5.  EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – If you can avoid it altogether, do not allow computers in the bedroom. If that’s not a viable option for your family, make sure there aren’t any webcams on the computers, and doors should be open during use. Additionally, you can position the computer desk so that the monitor is facing the door. I call this “SAFETY FENG SHUI.” If the screen is toward the door, mom or dad can drop by the room anytime unannounced and see what’s on the screen.

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  • This is great information and a huge topic IROC2 has been talking to audiences about since 2009. In fact, the book, “Public and Permanent: The Golden Rule of the 21st Century” goes into this type of activity in greater detail, especially in Section 4 where it speaks to C.E.L.S and how they use webcams to run the digital black market by exploiting peoples (usually our kids)irresponsibility.
    Just remember, if a person doesn’t take a sexy pic, post a sexy vid, or do something inappropriate in front of their webcam they are not OK being PUBLIC and PERMANENT, they are immune from cyber criminals and pedophiles as they are targeting victims less responsible.
    Practice Public and Permanent, and people like Anthony Stanci are a joke and will never hurt you or your family!

  • THANK YOU for sharing this important information. It’s scary to think that there may be a real life monster hiding in your computer and / or web cam! And let’s not forget cell phone cameras as well.
    Kids (and some adults too) really need to think before they just pose and post!!
    I will be sharing this information with others.
    Lisa C. Decker
    Certified Divorce Financial Analyst

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