What Parents Should Know About Sextortion

Sextortion, a troubling form of cyberbullying, is an area of concern that parents should be aware of for the safety of their children and teenagers. This article will delve into what parents should know about sextortion, discussing ways to combat it through open, preventative dialogues and non-judgmental support.

After her son’s suicide, one mother is speaking out against online sextortion.

In a Facebook post dated August 24, Jennifer Argiro-Markus gushed, “Braden had an amazing weekend of football.” He did what he always did on Saturdays: he ordered his favorite meal. After that, he did his homework, played Xbox with his relatives, and went to bed, living the average adolescent life.

Argiro-Marcus says he was feeling good when he woke up the next morning, but his mood quickly changed after he got a request to become a follower on Instagram at around 11:00 a.m. She claims a cyberbully posing as someone Braden’s age was responsible and provides photographic evidence.

After exchanging messages for around 5 minutes, the other party abruptly requested that Braden communicate with them using the Google Hangouts program. Within 30 minutes, it became clear that the predator was not a [high school] female.

Argiro-Markus claims messages suggest Braden was coerced into sending images by the same person. After initially refusing, her son supposedly came around.

Someone fabricated a film with Braden, his cousins, and their friends from that weekend, then threatened to release it online unless Braden paid $1800.

Less than half an hour after the messaging started, Braden took his own life.

Argiro-Markus advised parents to talk to their kids about cybercrime because it is on the rise. Repeatedly remind them that their lives are not worth the risk of making the wrong choice to come to you.

According to Argiro-Markus, Braden was the target of internet sextortion. In what ways are children at risk, and what can parents do about it? Read on to find out more.

What Exactly Is Sextortion?

Sextortion is defined as threats to expose sexual pictures with the intent to blackmail by THORN, an organization committed to ending the trafficking and exploitation of children for sexual purposes. While it appears that the offender in Braden’s instance was an unknown, THORN warns that familiar people, even previous intimate partners, can engage in sextortion.

Many instances of crime go unreported. A 2017 poll of over 2,100 sextortion survivors found that one-third of respondents never told anybody, primarily out of shame. 54% of those who admitted to having been sexted told someone they were close with about it.

Two out of every three people who make it through this are women. One-fourth of those sexted were younger than 13 years old.

What Measures Meta Is Taking to Safeguard Preteens and Teens

On November 21, 2022, new privacy controls will be available on Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook, all of which are owned by Meta. According to Meta, Facebook will now require users under the age of 16 to use stricter privacy settings.

Recommendations for Adolescents’ Facebook Privacy Settings:

  • Who can see their friends list.
  • Who can see posts they’re tagged in on their profile.
  • Who can see the people, Pages, and lists they follow.
  • Who is allowed to comment on their public posts.
  • Review posts they’re tagged in before the post appears on their profile.

Instagram just released new options that are very similar.

What Parents Can Do to Aid Their Kids

Because cybercrime is on the rise, Argiro-Markus recommends parents talk to their children about it. THORN offers advice by saying:

  • Assure them that they have committed no wrongdoing. Whoever did it should take responsibility. The survivor must grasp this concept.
  • Grant them agency. They can reject the extortion, put up blocks, and file complaints.
  • Guide the conversation. THORN recommends, “If someone ever tries to use a photo of you to convince you to do something you don’t want to do—I will be here for you,” when talking to your child about cyber safety, whether you suspect your child is being sextorted or not. And we’ll work things out as a team.

Argiro-Markus thinks talks like this will help people move past the tragedy of Braden’s death.

Without speaking up, warning our children, and working to stop these predators, we will be unable to assist them.

Text THORN to 74141 for assistance if you or someone you know is being sexted.

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