During the pandemic many teenagers spent a great deal of time on their laptops and the internet. It was really the only option they had since we were under quarantine and they could not go to many places when quarantine ended. Since teens were spending a lot of time online, many parents worried about sexual predators online and what their teenagers were being exposed to. Many teenagers feel their parents worry too much about the risks they face online. However, parents have a right to worry.
Before parents were worried about trolls who were trying to engage their teenagers into sexual encounters. However, there is a knew worry for parents. There are trolls who are targeting teenage boys. They are not trying to use the boys for sex. They are using the boys for money. The new danger is referred to as sextortion.
What the trolls are doing is emailing teenagers saying they have broken into their computer and they have copies of pornography they have looked at and videos of the boys masturbating. The boys are told if they do not send $500 or at times even more than $500, the pornography and videos will be posted online and sent to their contacts. Many boys panic because most teenage boys have looked at pornography and masturbated. This terrifies some teenage boys because they don’t want to tell their parents because it is very embarrassing to them. Unfortunately, many boys have paid these trolls and then found out they were the victim of a scam. After paying the money, the boys receive nothing and as I said they find out they are the victims of a scam.
I have had several teen boys who have received these emails or texts and they were terrified. I had them relax and we discussed the situation calmly and they were able to determine no one had hacked their computer plus they had not been watching porn while masturbating so there was no way people could have videos. However, the boys are so shocked and embarrassed by the email or text that they don’t think. Masturbation is not a subject discussed in our society. It’s also a behavior teenagers put each other down for. Therefore, the people who have developed this scheme have thought it through very well and figured out what would really scare teenagers. They definitely have found it.
Another twist to this scheme is teen boys think they are chatting with a teenage girl online. She asks for nude pictures of the boy and promises to send one of herself. Some boys send sexual poses and some send full nude pictures. Therefore, when they ask the boys for money the boys really panic. What the boys don’t realize is since they are under 18 years old the picture they sent is consider child pornography. The troll cannot do anything with the picture because if they do they can be arrested. Therefore, they are not going to do anything with it.
I do encourage boys to discuss these situations with their parents. Masturbation is normal and most parents know when their sons are masturbating. By discussing it with their parents, it can remove some of the stigma associated with sex and parents have an opportunity to discuss sex and issues associated with sex with their sons. Also it helps the teenagers understand that they can talk to them parents and that their parents can be understanding. It is very important for parents to have open, honest communication with their teenagers especially with everything going on in our Country today.
So what should parents do? Parents need to arrange a time to sit down with their teenage sons and discuss this issue of sextortion with them. Also ask if they have experienced anything like it and encourage them to tell you if they get a message on their laptops or cellphones. In addition to discussing sextortion also discuss internet and cellphone safety issues. Another issue to address is now that they are older that the consequences are more severe than when they were in fifth grade. Bottom line, it gives you an opportunity to work on keeping open, honest communication with your son and an opportunity to discuss responsibility and your family values with your son.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. To find out more about Dr. Rubino’s work please visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.