When I was a teen, many moons ago, stealing a look at The Catcher in the Rye at the library was risqué. My girlfriend discovered her neighbour’s stash of Playboy magazines in the garbage and carefully relocated them beneath a large landscape rock in her yard for our later consumption and giggles. There was excitement in the taboo.
Exposure to and the disclosure of the forbidden fruits of soft porn and foul language were more closely guarded and difficult to access in another generation and time. Goodness, even everyday realities were considered too brazen. Tampon commercials and lovemaking pitches to sell condoms were not even on the radar. Even TV couple Desi and Lucy had single beds, and television rules required characters to have at least one foot on the floor during an intimate bedroom scene to support virtuosity.
Fast forward to now, and information is no longer “laundered”. Our virtual world has flung the door wide open to possibility. Censorship has stepped aside for the younger, fresher ideals of transparency, entitlement, and autonomy. The Internet is, in one respect, the hero of the 21st century, as it makes access to investment choices, career, social interaction, and real-time events seamless. But social media often delivers on the lewd and indecent as well. One website, for example, screams out to our children, “How to Lose your Virginity (Girls) in 10 Steps!”
The Down Side of Social Media for Our Kids
Like all tools, the internet and social media are neutral. As parents, we need to be aware of how these tools can be misused and corrupted, understand its risqué appeal to our kids, and realize how the deceptive promise of online anonymity encourages bullying and thoughtless behavior. We are vigilant about educating our children on street safety and identifying stranger-danger. We caution them to be aware of their surroundings and to be cautious of older, friendly-seeming adults asking for their assistance looking for the proverbial “lost dog”. But are we missing what’s at the tip of our kids’ fingers? Smart phones, tablets, computers… these are the new stranger in the park, but online predation can be far more insidious and harder to identify. Oh for the days when it was as simple as trying to withhold a copy of The Catcher in the Rye!
What You Need to Know about ‘Sextortion’
Cyberbullying now has an uglier, more threatening incarnation: predators who cajole and coerce victims to provide sexual images and information with the ultimate goal of acquiring sexual favours. No matter how you paint it, it’s….blackmail. Sextortion is not only a new buzzword – it’s also a recognized crime. And your kids need to know what it is and how they can protect themselves.
Unlike other predator types, the sextortionist does not intend to build a relationship. The primary goal is obtaining sexual material. They are referred to as “cappers”; individuals who devote their time to capturing indecent images, primarily of young girls and boys. Children and teens are the most common victims, but adult women and men also fall prey to sextortion.
How does this happen? And how can we protect ourselves and our children? Please visit us for part 2 for more information.
If you want to learn strategies to help you to prevent or cope with a cyber-predator attack, consider speaking to a counsellor or consulting our parenting health and wellness resources.