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First there was Sexting, now there's Sextortion

The "harmless" sexting craze sweeping the nation has led to a new form of child predation - sextortion. More and more we are seeing cases of young girls being blackmailed online by often adult men into ever more sexual behavior with the threat of posting their sexting photos online:

From Newsbusters:

Last year, the hot trend was sexting – teenagers sending each other lascivious messages (and often nude or semi-nude photographs). If a teenaged boy received a nude photo of a friend and e-mailed it to buddies or posted it on a Facebook or MySpace page, there was the very real possibility of being prosecuted for distributing child pornography.

Now there’s a new and related crime in the court houses. It’s called “sextortion.”
Federal prosecutors and child safety advocates are warning of an upswing in online sexual blackmail. Associated Press cited a case in Indianapolis where three teenage girls with a webcam yielded to online peer pressure to flash their breasts. A week later, one Indiana girl started getting threatening e-mails that her topless image would be sent to her friends on MySpace unless she posed for more explicit photos – and even videos – for him. This girl complied with his blackmail threats twice – and then the police and federal officials stepped in and indicted a 19-year-old male in Maryland.

The victims might not even be in high school yet. The New Haven Register reported police received a complaint last November involving topless photos taken via webcam of a Conneticut girl “under 15 years old.” A 17-year-old Canadian boy was arrested in Montreal for threatening to post pictures he took over a webcam connection, demanding the young girl perform sex acts in front of the camera or he would post her topless picture on Facebook.

Young men are now facing years in prison for this “sextortion.” In Alabama, Jonathan Vance, 24, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in April after he confessed to sending threatening e-mails extorting nude photos from more than 50 young women in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Missouri. In Wisconsin, 18-year-old Anthony Stancl deceitfully posed as a girl on Facebook to trick high school classmates into sending him nude photos, which he then used to extort girls for sex. He received a 15-year sentence.

In California, federal officials say one 31-year-old man even stooped to remotely activating some girls' webcams without their knowledge and recorded them undressing or having sex.

Teenagers are obviously more vulnerable to blackmail because most parents would be shocked to learn their children are flashing their private parts on cell phones or Internet sites. One survey found 20 percent of teenagers and 33 percent of young adults aged 20 to 26 said they had sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. AP quoted attorney Parry Aftab to sum it all up about this growing trend of online exhibitionism: "Kids are putting their head in the lion's mouth every time they do this.”

Parents must be aware of what their children are doing online, who they're contacting and why. More importantly parents need to sit down with their children and tell them about these cases so they know what kinds of people may be out there contacting them online.


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