Teens and cyber blackmailing: A dangerous predator on the prowl

Cases of Amanda Todd of Canada and Daniel Perry of Scotland, both of whom committed suicides after failing to cope with cyber blackmailing, highlighted the seriousness of the issue and the urgency to address it. However, the threat of cyber blackmail often eludes the notice of parents, as the victims choose to remain quiet about it due to the often explicit and incriminating nature of the content being exploited by blackmailers. Considering the magnitude of the threat and its possible impact on kids, it’s imperative that parents understand what cyber blackmailing is, its potential effects, and how to combat it.

Difference between cyberbullying and cyber blackmailing

It is not uncommon for those aware of cyber blackmailing to confuse as a component of cyberbullying and make efforts to stop cyber bullying alone. While both the heinous crimes take place via similar channels and share many similarities, they are apart by several distinctions.

In general terms, cyberbullying involves intimidation or humiliation of victim over the Internet through verbal or psychological attacks such as hateful remarks, rumors, sharing embarrassing pictures or videos, etc. Common motives behind such behavior include entertainment, revenge, or simply to exert authority. The crime may not be covert in nature, as the cyberbullies feed off the attention that they receive. They may not even shy away from revealing their true identity. Kids targeted are normally selected on basis of their social standings.

In contrast to cyberbullying, cyber bullying involves exploiting the target’s desire for attention and relationship. The perpetrator dons a fake identity to gain trust of the target on either social networking or dating website, and then coaxes them into revealing personal information, engaging in sexually explicit conversation, or sharing photos or videos of them in sexually compromising positions. This content is then used to black the victim into paying money, or sharing more explicit videos or photos of themselves. The perpetrators generally keep their true identity hidden and select targets that are trusting and gullible.

Effects of cyber blackmailing on teens

The impact of cyber blackmailing on the mental well-being of teens is quite similar to that of different forms of bullying. It can include stress and anxiety in them, as they constantly worry about the consequences of cyber blackmailer making the explicit content public. It may interfere with their academic performance, sleep, hunger, real-world relations, hobbies, etc. If and once the victims refuse to go along with whatever the cyber blackmailer says and the content is shared with their family, peers, and even strangers, they are likely to feel extremely embarrassed, and start getting bullied and shamed in school and on the internet. The victim may spiral downwards while experiencing the torment and consider suicide as the only means of escape, as was seen in the case of Todd and Perry.

Help your teens avoid and cope with cyber blackmailing

Parents can help their teens dodge the deceptive traps laid by cyber blackmailers by educating them on how the latter operate and how to free themselves from their clutches when caught. They should be taught safe and responsible online behavior, and explained the importance of refraining from sharing personal information, photos or videos online. Parents should ensure that their teen doesn’t have a webcam in their bedroom, so that it’s easier for them to monitor their use of it. Installing parental control software on the digital devices of kids may make it convenient for parents to ensure that their young one are stay out of harm’s way and behaving responsibly on the internet. It can also help them to detect smoke early and make timely intervention. Most importantly, teens should be given the confidence to report cyber blackmailing to an adult, be it parents or law enforcing authorities.

Driven by sick and greedy motives, cyber blackmailers can prove to be very dangerous indeed. It’s important that parents recognize the magnitude of the threat and do everything within their power to protect their kids.

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