New Infographic Highlights the Mobile Generation

November 14, 2011

Think you know how and when your college students are using their phones? This infographic from Hackcollege.com might make you think again, my suspicion is that high schoolers’ aren’t far behind.

If you’re student’s grades aren’t what they should be, this data may give you a few pointers for discussion. It’s hard to learn when texting in class yet 25% say they text in every single class period, and 88% say they do so regularly.

25% say they’ve been involved in sexting, but the healthier viewpoint is that 75% say they have not sent or received sext messages. Perhaps a bigger a red flag that the study found 50% of respondents say they check their significant other’s text history, indicating some fairly unhealthy relationships.

 
Generation Mobile

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Sexting Trauma – Read this Month’s Redbook Article

October 24, 2011

A new article  by Sandy M. Fernández for Redbook provides excellent insight into a sexting incident’s long-term impact on a young girl. Covering a three year time period, the article delves into the life of a young girl who felt pressured into sexting, and the emotional, legal, and educational aftermath.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

Sexting Trauma: “I Was Naked Out in the World”

“Can I have a video?”

When the message flashed on then-13-year-old Taylor Sullivan’s* cell-phone screen late on a Saturday night in February 2009, she didn’t understand the question. It was midnight, and Taylor…. was in her pajamas, watching That’s So Raven and texting a boy from school, a class clown type who, she hoped, “might want to be my boyfriend.” She’d never dated anyone before.

“Video of what?” she typed. Everyone else in the house had gone to bed. But Taylor — kept awake by the pinging messages — had come back to the living room.

“You stripping,” came the answer.

Taylor’s immediate response was “No, no way.” …. Taylor had friends who’d sent some, … She had even tested out a couple shots herself. She knew the risks: Guys rarely kept these to themselves. Still, she liked this boy. And he swore it would be just between the two of them. “I didn’t know what to do,” Taylor says. “So I’d say, ‘I don’t know. I don’t feel good about this.’ And he’d be like, ‘Please?'”

It’s two years later, and we’re sitting on the back porch….. read more on http://www.redbookmag.com/kids-family/advice/teenage-sexting

It’s a thoughtful article that should be read not only by every parent but by every teen as it helps take a topic that is often discussed very 2-dimentionally and brings forward the complexities of dealing with the aftermath as the sender/victim, among friends, at school, and at home.   I am honored to have been interviewed for this article, and help drive greater awareness of the issues rather than the sensationalism that frequently accompanies these stories.

What’s missing from the article are suggestions for how to help your child build up defenses so they don’t feel pressured to send sexual images or video, what to do  if they already have sent images of themselves to others, and how you as a parent need to support your child through this kind of event. To learn more about these aspects of dealing with sexting see my blogs:

Linda


When Parents Rank Internet Safety and Sexting as More Concerning than Alcohol Abuse and Driving Accidents, We’ve got A Problem

August 18, 2011

As a mother of four, I’m acutely aware of all the things parents worry about when raising kids, but I’m concerned when research again tells us that parents are more worried about online actions than risks like teen pregnancy, alcohol abuse and driving accidents.

We simply have to stop the fear mongering.  Yes there are risks online, and I’m among those who are quick to point out the risks – but not for people to panic over. The goal of helping consumers identify risks to their online safety, security and privacy is to help them make informed choices about how they use tools, how they pressure companies to step up, and how they let their elected officials know what they want to see regulated.

A quick look at the results of a new poll by the University of Michigan shows how concerns trend by parent and ethnicity.   To make comparisons easier, I’ve used background colors to show where different concerns fall by group, and put those related to online safety in red text (while not all bullying is cyberbullying, I chose to include this in the internet category given all the news cyberbullying has generated in the press).

While every parent will have their own priority ranking of concerns, the likelihood of death or permanent physical injury is dramatically less in online risks than with the other items listed here.

Yes, your child could meet a sexual predator online, and some do with tragic consequences. But the risk is minor compared to the 7% of young women aged 18–24 who had had sex before age 20 and reported that their first sexual experience was involuntary – in most cases the exploitation is from someone they know[i].

Yes, a hefty percent of youth are sexting (so are their parents) and it can have enormously embarrassing consequences – and in at least a few cases led to suicide.  But compared to the fact that each year almost 750,000 U.S. women aged 15–19 become pregnant, it pales by comparison.  Add to that the fact that young people aged 13–24 made up about 17% of all those who received a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in 2008 and hopefully perspectives become more nuanced[ii].

Yes there are real risks and even deadly consequences with extreme internet ‘addiction’ – but it is irrational to place these risks side by side with the 10% of teens using ecstasy, or the 25% of kids who begin drinking alcohol at age 12, or other drugs.

The poll led my curiosity into taking a hard look at other teen risk data, which is valuable to any larger risk discussion.  Consider the following:

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group.[iii] In 2009, eight teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

In 2009, about 3,000 teens in the United States aged 15–19 were killed and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes. [iv]

Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30% ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.[v]

  • Drug abuse is up. In the last three years ecstasy use among teenagers has jumped 67%. One in 10 teens now uses it. Marijuana use is up 22%, with 40% of teens now smoking pot, according to The Partnership at Drugfree.org.

Nearly 25% of high school seniors reportedly using illicit drugs in the last 30 days,[vi]  more than 33% have used drugs in the past year, and over half have tried illegal drugs at some point.

For the first time since 1981, more 12th graders have used marijuana than cigarettes in the previous month – that equates to more than 1 in 5 seniors.  1 out of every 16 seniors smokes pot daily.

In 2008, an estimated 20.1 million Americans ages 12 or older (8.0%) were current (past-month) illicit drug users[vii].

  • Alcohol abuse is up. This April, the Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation conducted research that indicates alcohol abuse is again increasing among teens.  25% of teens have had a drink by age 12, though the average age to start drinking is 14 years old.  A whopping 71% of teens have tried a drink before leaving high school[viii].

The research found that weak perceptions of risk and a perceived “normalization” of underage drinking were behind the increase in adolescent alcohol use[ix].

  • Almost half of teens (45%) reported they do not see a “great risk” in heavy daily drinking.
  • Only 31% of teens strongly disapprove of teens and peers their age getting drunk.
  • 73% report having friends who drink alcohol at least once a week.
  • While the primary reason teens reported drinking alcohol is “fun” (60%), a significant number of teens reported using alcohol to “to forget their troubles” (32%), to “deal with problems at home” (24%), or to “deal with the pressures and stress of school” (20%).

The survey underscored the finding that teens that begin drinking before the age of 15 are much more likely than other teens to develop problems with alcohol as adults.

According to the CDC, about 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 occurs in the form of binge drinking, which, experts say, peaks at age 19. Approximately 200,000 adolescents are hospitalized each year for drinking-related incidents, and more than 1,700 college students die from them[x].

Despite declines in the number of young people involved in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, more than 3 people under the age of 21 die each day in alcohol-impaired driving crashes[xi].

Teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases don’t appear to be rising (in some cases they are dramatically lower, but the statistics are nevertheless sobering. 

 

  • 13% of teens have had vaginal sex by age 15[xii].
  • Seven percent of young women aged 18–24 who had had sex before age 20 report that their first sexual experience was involuntary[xiii].
  • Young people aged 13–24 made up about 17% of all those who received a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in 2008[xiv].
  • Although 15–24-year-olds represent only one-quarter of the sexually active population, they account for nearly half (9.1 million) of the 18.9 million new cases of STIs each year. [xv]
  • Each year, almost 750,000 U.S. women aged 15–19 become pregnant. Two-thirds of all teen pregnancies occur among 18–19-year-olds[xvi].
  • Eighty-two percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned; they account for about one-fifth of all unintended pregnancies annually[xvii].

Internet risks are real, and it is critical that we educate consumers of all ages on the opportunities, the risks, the tools, and the responsibilities they have when online. But it is absurd to imagine that internet risks are placing children at more risk than driving accidents, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, child abuse, school violence, and so on.

Media hype leads to fear. Fear leads to kneejerk reactions and misplaced focus. Parents, pay attention to online risks but don’t take your eye off the biggest issues teens face.

For the most part the internet is a safer place than the streets.

Linda


[ii] Weinstock H et al., Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2004, 36(1):6–10.

[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2010). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). [Cited 2010 Oct 18].

[iv] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2010). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). [Cited 2010 Oct 18].

[v] NHTSA[2009]. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 2009. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis.

[vii] SAMHSA

[xi] Source: NHTSA/FARS, 2010

[xiv] 12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV Surveillance Report, 2008, Vol. 20, 2010, <http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/reports>, accessed Oct. 26, 2010.

[xv] Weinstock H et al., Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2004, 36(1):6–10.

[xvi] Kost K, Henshaw S and Carlin L, U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity, 2010, <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf> accessed Jan. 26, 2010.

[xvii] Finer LB et al., Disparities in rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States, 1994 and 2001, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2006, 38(2):90–96.


More Men Charged with Attempting to Lure Underage Girls Online

November 3, 2010

While the media’s focus on internet safety has shifted almost exclusively to cyberbullying and sexting, other forms of predation continue to pose a threat. Once over-hyped as lurking behind every online contact, then dismissed as statistically insignificant, child sexual predators constitute a very real concern, and they are constantly trolling for new victims.

To thwart their exploitation of minors, Child Predator Units continue to pose as underage minors online, and undercover agents posing as young teen girls or boys continue to reel in these predators with virtually every fly they cast.

In a recent sting in Pennsylvania, two men have been charged with using the internet in an attempt to lure underage girls into sexual encounters.

According to Attorney General Tom Corbett’s office, Jacob Andrew Lucas, 25, and Richard Dean Carbo, 47, allegedly propositioned attorney general’s office agents who were pretending to be 13-year-old girls, through Internet chat rooms.

Charges were filed against Lucas after he sent a naked picture of himself during his first online chat with an agent pretending to be an underage teen girl and pressured the ‘girl’ to meet with him in person. Lucas then repeatedly engaged in online chats with the undercover agent, going into detail about the sexual acts he wished to perform with the ‘girl’, even going so far as to ask when her parents worked so he could arrange to meet with her at her house when no adults would be around.

Lucas was arrested by officers from the Child Predator Unit and police after he arrived at a predetermined location to meet up with the undercover agent posing as the teenager. He has been charged with one count of unlawful contact with a minor, one count of unlawful contact with a minor, two counts of unlawful contact with a minor and one count of criminal use of a computer.

The second arrestee, Richard Carbo, is also charged with attempting to engage in sexual activity with a minor after soliciting an undercover agent who posed as a teenage girl in an Internet chat room. He told the agent that he wanted to meet with her in order to “teach” her about sex, according to the attorney general’s office.

Carbo sent webcam videos to the undercover agent posing as a teen girl, in which he was naked and performing a sex act. He also sent pornographic images, and discussed bestiality with the ‘girl’. Carbo was arrested by police and agents from the Child Predator Unit and charged with 14 counts of unlawful contact with a minor; along with one count of criminal use of a computer.

Why this matters to you

More kids get harmed by schoolyard bullies than get hit by cars – but we still go to great lengths to teach youth how to look both ways and follow traffic safety rules. This same pragmatism must be applied to online safety issues as well, we cannot fail to address in a careful and thoughtful way the full scope of potential online issues youth may face.

Some internet safety “experts” have all but dismissed the threat of sexual predators online as a rarity that essentially only involves troubled youth, and have advised that efforts should instead focus on areas that impact a larger number of victims. This is shockingly poor guidance.  This is not an either/or scenario.

While successful sexual exploitation of a minor met through the internet is far less common than many other forms of abuse, it is not a rare outcome. The potentially horrific and life-long consequences of sexual exploitation demand that focus, education and prevention efforts remain a priority for families, schools, and others who teach youth about online safety.

Another common, though unfortunate, observation is that most of the youth who were solicited online were already experiencing trouble in other aspects of their lives. While this is true, it doesn’t present the larger more accurate picture.

Some youth who have fallen victim to online sexual predators were shockingly ‘normal’ with great grades, strong friendships, and popular. Others have been in trouble at home, at school or with the law multiple times. Some are lonely, vulnerable, questioning their own sexuality, unsupervised, or have already been victims of sexual exploitation.

All youth are more vulnerable at some points than they are at others, and predators, including child sexual predators, are constantly probing online and offline for youth who are in one of those vulnerable moments.

It is essential for parents, teachers and caregivers to candidly discuss with kids and teens how to appropriately engage with others, how to reject inappropriate contact, and how to seek help when needed whether the contact is online or offline.

As you discuss online safety with kids and teens, talk about the full breadth of potential threats, teach what youth can do to stay safer and avoid harm, and assure your children that you will give them your total support if problems arise.

This does not mean scaring children, nor does it mean banning youth from using the internet. In fact, banning youth from social networking or other online activities is likely to backfire and lead to deception. It also places youth at an extremely high level of vulnerability as youth who have been told they can’t use these online tools, can’t turn to you if things go wrong.

Actively engage with your child online, understand who they are interacting with, teach social responsibility, family safety and privacy, and be in tune to changes in their behavior that could indicated issues.

We need the ongoing discussions about cyberbullying and self-exploitation through sexting, but we cannot set aside teaching youth about online sexual exploitation, and other potential areas of risk.

Linda


Prosecutor Claims His Sexting A Client Was ‘Respectful’

September 28, 2010

You know something’s wrong when a County District Attorney scrambles to keep from public scrutiny the text messages he sent to a victim of domestic violence in a case he is prosecuting.

Yet that’s just what a prosecutor, Ken Kratz, is accused of doing in Wisconsin where he urged state officials to keep his text messages from being seen by the public, his peers, and state regulators.

According to the Associated Press, Kratz, 50, admitted to sending 30 text messages to the 26-year-old victim while he was prosecutor on her case against a violent ex-boyfriend. But, he claimed they were “a series of respectful messages” that were not sexual at all.

In one text message Kratz asked if she’s “the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA.” In others, according to the AP who reviewed the text messages, he called her “a hot, young nymph”, said “you are beautiful and would make a great young partner one day’ and ‘I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well that you’d be THE woman! R U that good?’.

After three days of this sexual harassment, the young woman reported the prosecutor to police. She aid she felt pressured to start a relationship with Kratz and was worried he would drop the charges against her ex-boyfriend or retaliate against her in another way if she did not respond positively to him.

There are so many levels of wrong in this incident, it’s hard to know where to begin

Shockingly, the state Office of Lawyer Regulation concluded in March that Kratz’s behavior was inappropriate but did not amount to misconduct.

No misconduct? Really? Here a young woman who had been violently assaulted and nearly choked to death by an ex-boyfriend turned to law enforcement for protection – only to be re-victimized through sexually explicit and demeaning text messages sent by the very prosecutor assigned to protect her through trying her case.

I’m amazed that this young woman had the courage – or the faith in our legal system – to go back to the police and report this second assault against her.

In the AP article, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence called Kratz’s behavior “absolutely unacceptable” and said he had compromised his ability to do his job. “His actions were more than just a lapse in judgment,” said spokesman Tony Gibart. “They in fact do have far-reaching implications for victim safety and public safety.”

What’s truly ironic is that Kratz was chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims’ Rights Board, When confronted with direct evidence he resisted stepping down according to email exchanges.

Kratz, who held a press conference the day after the AP broke the story, said he offered a “sincere and heartfelt apology” to the woman and his own family for his lack of judgment. “This behavior showed a lack of respect, not only for my position but for the young woman that was involved.”

Though pressed with demands for his resignation, Kratz left the press conference without responding, saying only that would consider taking
personal time off work, as the court calendar will allow, to get psychotherapy treatment.

His rehearsed, camera ready, 4-minute statement of apology runs counter to comments he made earlier in the day when he said he was a victim of  a “smear campaign.” Other Wisconsin attorneys have done far worse, he said, and “haven’t received near the attention or scrutiny that I have.”

Kratz also asserted that the only opinion he cared about was that of local voters, when he runs for office again in 2012 saying, “If the citizens of this county would like a different individual as district attorney, they’ll have that option.”

The lack of clear consequences matters

  • It matters that a prosecutor, in a position of such power over a case, and therefore over the safety of the complainant, can abuse this trust and continue in that role.
  • It matters that a victim of domestic violence cannot feel safe going to law enforcement to get the help needed without risking further exploitation.
  • It matters that this appears to be a pattern of behavior – Kratz is accused of similar misconduct with two other women. Is there a threshold for how many women can be exploited before it counts?
  • It matters to every person whose case may be assigned to Kratz for prosecution in the future.
  • It matters that a prosecutor can propose to Justice officials a horse-trade to that he would step down as chair of a Crime Victims’ Rights Board if they agreed not to refer the matter to legal regulators or to initiate “public disclosure.” Were it not for the investigative reporting by AP’s Ryan Foley his actions may never have come to light.
  • It matters that it appears as if no punishment will be meted out to this sexual harasser short of citizens voting him out of office two years from now.
  • It matters that this man’s attitude towards on-line sexual predation allows him to minimize his own behavior with a that other attorneys have done worse and “haven’t received near the attention or scrutiny that I have.” Poor thing.
  • It matters that although this incident occurred nearly a year ago, it was only after the AP story broke that the governor took initial steps toward removal of the prosecutor from his office
  • It also matters that this lack of action says much about the governor’s attitude about sexual harassment.

Inequality between consequences for this mans sexting vs. consequences some teens have faced

I’m disgusted by this individual. But, I’m also struck by the disparity between what the consequences a person in his position faces for sexting (potentially none) vs.  the consequences some teens have faced (including imprisonment and sex offender labels) for sending sexualized content to consenting partners.

Sure, the guy (as far as we know) did not send sexual images, but sexting explicit words to an unwilling participant – and exploiting one who has just been through another form of exploitation (while officially charged with aiding and protecting his client) is on an entirely different plane in my mind than two dumb kids swapping photos.

Linda


Sexting often leads to heartbreak, humiliation

August 28, 2010

On behalf of the Safe Internet Alliance, Linda Criddle was interviewed for this story by Lois M. Collins. It was published Sat. Aug. 21st, by the Deseret News.

Also interviewed was Dr. Scott Whittle, a psychiatrist and medical director of Primary Children’s residential and day treatment programs who said “When our children face shame and embarrassment [from sexting] and aren’t able to find relief, they may consider drastic measures that place them at risk,” Whittle said. “This is a reaction we are seeing from bullying and the social taunting that comes from sexting that is shared beyond its intended audience.”

Read the full article here Sexting often leads to heartbreak, humiliation.

Linda


With Sexting, Sexcam sessions, and Indiscretion, Comes Sextortion

August 20, 2010

It was inevitable that the number of sextortion cases reaching the public’s attention would climb as the spread of sexting and sexcam sessions continues unabated.

Sextortion – the combination of the words “sex” and “extortion isn’t a web phenomenon, extortionists and blackmailersi have used their knowledge of other’s infidelities, or possession of compromising images, videos, phone calls, and letters since close to the dawn of man. Perhaps the most recent public example was when a former CBS producer threatened to disclose David Letterman’s history of affairs unless Letterman paid him $2 million.

But the web has certainly increased access to the types of content and communications that many would rather not have exposed, and there is no shortage of slime-balls hoping to leverage that reluctance towards exposure for their benefit.

A few recent internet sextortion cases in the news should give a wake up call to anyone who has been foolish enough to place themselves in a compromising position, or thinks there is little risk in doing so in the future.

Case 1: The paraplegic programmer who, over a two year period, victimized at least 186 women and 44 girls according to the FBI who became involved in the case in 2009. According to the Forbes article More Details Emerge On ‘Sextortion’ Hacker Suspect, 31-year-old Mexican native, and Santa Ana, Calif. resident, Luis Mijangos, gained control of user’s computers by using Trojans disguised as songs on peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Once he took control of the PC, he would search for sexually explicit photographs and financial information, and attempt to use what he found to further extort pornographic videos from his victims.

According to the news story, the creep is also accused of “using keyloggers to gain access to social networking sites, e-mail, credit card numbers, and so forth to gain further information to perpetuate the scheme as well as make purchases. He sent malware via instant messenger to the contacts of his victims to infect more computers, tallying more than 100 infected in all.”

Case 2: The 19-year-old punk from Maryland who captured photos of a 17-year-old girl flashing her breasts on a webcam in an internet chat room and threatened to post the pictures to her MySpace friends unless she posed for more explicit pictures and videos for him. The story, reported by the Associated Press, details how Treavor Shea of Mechanicsville, Maryland began sending threatening e-mails to the young lady and how, under the threat of humiliation in front of her friends on MySpace, she on at least two occasions did pose for more explicit pictures and videos before involving law enforcement.

Case 3: Auburn University graduate and church choir boy Jonathan Vance, of Alabama has received an 18 year sentence for attempting to extort nude photos of at least 50 teenage girls and young women in three states. The story by the Birmingham News reports that the 24 year-old perp admitted to sending threatening e-mails on Facebook and MySpace demanding  nude photos from victims in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Case 4: Boy who poses as a girl. 18-year-old Anthony Stancl of New Berlin Wisconsin, pretended to be a female on Facebook to trick male classmates into sending him photos. He convinced at least 31 boys in his high school to send him naked cell phone pictures. He then blackmailed at least 7 of the boys – ages 15-19 – into performing sex acts by threatening to expose the original nude photos to the rest of the school if they did not meet his demands. The Journal Sentinel reported that more than 300 naked photos and movie clips of New Berlin boys and another 600 professionally made pornographic movies involving children were found on the computer.

This was not the first time that Stancl has been in trouble with the law because of sexual crimes. During his sentencing hearing, prosecutors noted that Stancl had been convicted of having sexual contact with a 3-year-old boy when he was just 13-years-old.

There is no system or entity that tracks this form of crime specifically, and most unfortunately will not get reported. But for every one case of extortion, there are thousands of cases where disgruntled friends, ex’s, and others simply choose to be vicious and publicize sexualized images of others to watch their humiliation.

And with the Increase in Sexting Among Teens AND Their Parents expect to see more of  this type of crime.

Protecting your kids – and yourselves

There are three aspects to any discussion about sexual actions online – whether that discussion is with youth or adults:

A) Why no one should participate in sexual exchanges online. Focus on helping youth see past their naïveté surrounding the implications of sending sexual messages, photos, videos, chats, or describing sexual activities they’ve been doing offline. Any of these actions can be, and likely will be, something they regret at some point in the future, even if they aren’t being extorted. Help youth understand that:

  1. Once an image has been shared, the sender has lost all control of where that will be distributed.
  2. The girl- or boyfriend of today, is highly likely to share it with friends (a main point of having the photo for most youth is to show people you have it).
  3. When breakups occur, the malicious dissemination of an ex’s nude image(s) is an all too common experience.
  4. The humiliation caused by having the victim’s image(s) disseminated can be devastating. Simply knowing their ‘private’ photo is seen and shared by potentially millions of people – possibly including family members, school teachers, their religious leaders, neighbors, and pedophiles – and that the image may haunt them forever can be overwhelming. In several extreme, tragic cases, girls like Jessica Logan, and Hope Witsell have committed suicide.
  5. The photos may be used for blackmail or sextortion as in the cases listed above.
  6. The photos may be classified as child pornography, and the image taker, the image recipient, and any other recipients may be charged and registered as sex offenders – a label that will follow them through life. “Sexting” Leads to Child Porn Charges for Teens, ‘Sexting’ Teens May Face Child Porn Charges
  7. The photos may carry consequences that include getting kicked off of teams, squads, and leadership roles in schools and extracurricular programs. And may result in the loss of scholarships – or cause that the student not be considered for scholarships. Teens may also lose their jobs.
  8. The photos may increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of physical abuse.

B) Getting help if youth (or adults) are the target of sextortion. Unfortunately, not everyone will heed the advice to refrain from sexual exchanges online, and so understanding how to minimize the damage is critical – whether it be for your child, or to give them the information that will help another child.

  1. Extortionists extort. If they have one compromising image, video, or piece of information and they see opportunity in threatening a victim with it, giving them what they ask for is just providing more ammunition, It will not stop the exploitation – in most cases it will simply allow the extortionist to increase their demands.
  2. Call it extortion, sextortion, or blackmail, it’s illegal.
  3. Get help. For minors, no matter how embarrassing the incident, parents will in most cases be the best place to first turn to for help. Depending on the situation, it may be resolved through parents, or with school involvement. Where sexual demands are made, it is a matter for immediate law enforcement involvement.
    1. Parents, this puts a clear responsibility on you to create an environment where your children can be safe coming to you for help. In these kinds of situations some people are tempted to blame the victim, that’s off target. They are the victim of a crime and they need your help with that crime. The question of why they chose to share compromising photos, video, or information is entirely separate and should be handled separately – and calmly.
    2. Youth, if your parents aren’t going to help you through this, get a teacher, your religious leader, or another trusted adult to help you. Few teens – and fewer younger kids are comfortable going to the police themselves.

C) Extorting others is WRONG. Unfortunately, for a segment of the population, wielding power over others is alluring. But it’s never right, and if it becomes extortion, or blackmail,  it is illegal. The penalties for sexual extortion are even more severe.

  1. Help teach that this is unacceptable behavior because it harms others.
  2. If the welfare of others isn’t something your child – or you – care about, get professional help. And consider the following:
    1. Extortion and blackmail are federal crimes.
    2. Anthony Stancl faced 293 years in prison if he had been convicted of the full 12 counts against him. His actual sentence is 15-years in prison and another 13-years of extended supervision for his crimes. He will be 33 before he leaves prison, and 46 before he is no longer under legal supervision. He will always carry the registered sex offender label.
    3. Jonathan Vance was sentenced to 18 years in prison, making him 42 when he is released. He will be a registered sex offender, and will serve the rest of his life on supervised probation. He will be barred from having any contact with minors, and will only have restricted computer access.
    4. The cases of Treavor Shea and Luis Mijangos have yet to go to trial, but Luis Mijangos also faces deportation.





[i] The terms “extortion” and “blackmail” are commonly used interchangeably, even though they are distinct concepts. According to the definition provided by criminal-law.freeadvice.com, extortion means forcing someone to do something, usually give up something valuable under threats of injury, death or other illegal harm. Blackmail means specifically obtaining something of value under the threat to disclose something shameful or disreputable about a person. This can be true even if it would not have been illegal to simply make the reputation-damaging information public.

Linda