Victims and instances of the crime of “sextortion,” when a person over the age of 18 convinces (through manipulation or threats) a person under the age of 18 to send sexually explicit photos or videos online, are alarmingly younger and rapidly increasing.
In my talks with elementary school kids, I stress the importance of not being connected with, chatting, messaging, Snapping, or making plans to meet up with, anyone they don’t know ‘IRL’ (In Real Life). I ask them questions to get them thinking… How can you be positively certain that a person truly is who they say they are online if you don’t know personally know them? Did any of you have to show your school ID to create an account on any social media app? They shake their heads, hands go up. One kid answers, “Well, you can look at their account and see their pictures.” We talk about why this is not a reliable way to verify a person’s identity online. We do also talk about that little blue circle with the check mark.
I explain to them how a person can pretend to be anyone they want online and that creepy people, also known as child predators, can make accounts depicting a young person’s world of favorite sports, pets, art, food, books and travels in order to gain trust. So… someone they believe is into all the same cool things they are, might be someone like the person pictured below. Please show this to your kids and notice how this man had several social media accounts where he pretended to be a kid talking to other kids using fake names like, “LISABUTTERFLY2,” “LOVE361569,” and “LISASMITH9687.”
Nicholas Pedagno was arrested last week in Suffolk County.
If parents allow kids to use social media, I think it is more important than ever that they see this and understand that there are real live, actual predators out there looking to collect photos- some will screenshot photos of children for the purpose of selling them on the dark web- or worse, convince a child to send them sexually explicit photos or videos using threats or blackmail techniques. In February 2021 a letter came home from our school district in conjunction with Harrison Township and Mantua Township Police who work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to identify predators and charge them accordingly. This message is universal and important to share and discuss with your children. No matter where you live, this is happening.
What parents can do to protect kids:
- Utilize restrictions on phones, computers and other devices
- Install Parental Control Software – SafeWise list of top rated for 2022
- Familiarize yourself with any social app you allow your child to use
- Keep accounts Private
- Watch your kids – there is “No Lifeguard on Duty” here – every app is potentially dangerous
Helpful resources for parents:
I can’t stress enough the importance of communication with our digital kids.
Thanks for stopping by,