The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is warning parents about an increasing and serious trend involving youth being extorted for money. There is a concerning rise in teenagers reporting issues surrounding the sharing of sexual images/videos with adults posing as teenagers. On platforms that allow users to communicate by video, offenders are secretly recording teenagers exposing themselves and then threatening to share the sexual content if they don’t pay money (often hundreds of dollars, or more) to the individual.
In many incidents, youth are participating in this activity believing they are engaging with another young person. Connections first start out within social networking sites and then progress to live video feeds where youth engage in sexual behaviours that are secretly recorded by offenders over webcam.
Anytime youth are using platforms that offer the ability to connect live via webcam, they must consider the risks. While many teens understand the dangers associated with recording and sharing sexual images and videos, they are not as aware of the risks associated with live video feeds. With relative ease over live streaming, anyone can capture a still image or video of a person sexually exposing themselves – all without the other person’s knowledge.
“Parents must have regular conversations with teens about the risks associated with engaging in sexual behaviour online and how videos and images can be used against them,” says Acting Staff Sergeant Josh Kingsley, Operations Manager of Leeds OPP. “Live video streaming in combination with the sexual curiosity of youth makes them particularly vulnerable to being sextorted and coerced.”
“It is also important for parents to talk with teens about never complying with threats. These situations do not get resolved by complying and in fact, can make matters worse. Teens need to be explicitly told this,” says Kingsley. “Parents also need to tell their kids that if something like this ever happens, that they need to come to them no matter what – and that together they will get through it.”