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Sextortion: Forwarned is Forearmed

sextortion-graphicYears ago, I recall hearing the Latin words, Praemonitus praemunitus. I was too young then to appreciate its significance.

For those of you that are a bit rusty on your Latin, the phrase means  forewarned is forearmed  — and is the motto of the United States Army Security Agency.

In today’s digital world of parenting, truer words were never spoken.

For example:

In the battle for content between, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, there has been a wealth of original and niche programming that would not exist if not for such streaming services and the public’s insatiable appetite for content.  Recently, Netflix original series  Black Mirror, unravels the subject of sextortion  with the production of  “Shut Up and Dance,”

What is sextortion?In short,  Sextortion is  when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money.

The FBI provides a quick video overview through this video:

In the episode of , “Shut Up and Dance” the program illustrates some unrealistic scenarios – the technology behind the subject is very much real. Moreover, as we detail in our social media presentations: YOUR DIGITAL TATTOO, never before in history has it be so easy to stalk, record and dupe our children into doing the unthinkable.

Does this mean our kids are bad people – and we’re horrible excuses for parents? No. But it does mean that families need to be more aware of how technology can infiltrate our lives without our knowledge.

Just doing a simple Google search on the subject of “ sextortion news” , you’ll receive over 16,000 articles on the subject. Expand the search to simply “sextortion” and Google returns over 356,000 links on the subject. Yet, the issue and threat is generally swept under the carpet in our homes.

To explore this sad and sadistic form of online abuse The University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center partnered  with non-profit THORN to study the impact of this abuse.

The study discovered that women are the primary targets, and more than 50% of these victims knew the offender before the harassment began. Moreover, almost all were under 18 when the abuse started.

However, it also occurs with older teens and young adults as is detailed by ABC News regarding two George Mason University students that fell victim to sextortion, after they were blackmailed with explicit videos.

 

Additionally, a recent Microsoft sponsored study shows that teen sextortion is escalating, with 44% of teen respondents suggesting they personally experienced sexual threats or knew of instances among family and friends.

One third of those suggesting they experienced sextortion responded that these acts occurred nearly every time they go online!

Due to the results of this study, Microsoft released some of the results early in order to warn parents of the online dangers.

In this release, Jacqueline Beauchere Microsoft’s Chief Online Safety Officer said,

“We’ve chosen to make this preliminary release, featuring data about teens in the back-to-school timeframe to remind young people about the need for smart, safe and respectful online habits at home, at school and on the go. We will follow with an early look at key data from the adult respondents in the weeks ahead.”

Microsoft will be releasing results of the full study on February 7, 2017 which is international Safer Internet Day.

As we mention in each of our presentations, please understand that there should be no assumed privacy in the digital world. Almost every app has the ability to have the communication between parties recorded. However, generally, the majority of the times that sextortion occurs is not a result of a hack or poor app privacy settings on a certain app. Rather, sextortion generally occurs as a result of someone sharing a word, photo or video with a trusted friend or romantic partner. When the relationship ends, the offended party seeks revenge and provides the intimate results of that former romance with the world.

This happens to the best of people and their families – and it can happen to yours as well.

Please talk with your children and help them understand that in a world of digital devices – their words, photos and videos can cause their young lives to spins out of control.

Much the episode of “Shut Up and Dance,” sextortion can be reality in which our children find themselves.

Forewarned is forearmed.

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