‘Sextortion’ on internet poses risk to teenagers

The FBI has issued a warning about various online groups that target teenagers and persuade them to record sexually explicit conduct, self-harm or various acts of violence.

The FBI’s Pittsburgh field office recently warned of an increase in “sextortion” cases involving teenagers.

Last week, the agency held a news conference to provide information for parents and children to be aware of when online.

According to the FBI website, multiple online groups target youths ages 8 to 17, persuading them to record sexually explicit conduct, self-harm, or various acts of violence.

These groups often use threats and information gleaned from public social media profiles to coerce victims. The recordings were then used to further blackmail.

Uniontown Police Public Information Officer Tom Kolencik said parents should set up parental controls on their children’s phones if they haven’t already done so.

“It’s a must,” Kolensik said.

He added that something the department has found useful for parents is to have a “contract” with their children that sets parameters for cell phone use and internet access.

Children may benefit from mom or dad paying the bills, but that comes with parents having unrestricted access to their phones and having to approve every social media post or picture sent.

Kolensik noted that Uniontown has received no complaints about teenagers socializing with strangers on the Internet. A more common problem is teens sharing sexually explicit photos with each other.

“Kids are getting pictures of other kids and sending them out. That’s what it is,” Korencik said.

He added that young people should be aware that they are committing a crime when creating or sharing such material.

While Uniontown police don’t tend to deal with children targeted by online predators, they have seen it happen with adults.

According to Korencik, the department has received reports of people being blackmailed after sharing photos with people they met on dating sites. In these cases, victims often threaten the victim’s friends and family with sharing inappropriate photos with them if they don’t pay.

“This is not a bluff,” Kolensik said of the threat to share the photo.

When it comes to children, though, the FBI encourages parents to actively monitor their children’s internet usage and exercise caution when posting any images or personal content online.

Kolensik said it’s important for teen victims to tell a guardian or adult if they feel unsafe or threatened in some way. He said establishing a “no questions asked” policy could help in this regard. Simply put, teens know that the first priority is their safety and well-being.

“That kid knows I can call mom or dad or a guardian and we can talk about it another time,” Kolensik said. “Teenagers themselves are more accepting of this than you might think.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *