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February 26, 2010

A Disturbing New Term: CyberBlackmail

I posted on TechMamas.com yesterday about this terrible news:

Today I read in Techmeme then on the CNET site a report: "Teen gets 15 years for Facebook blackmail".  Here are some details from that post:

"Anthony Stancl, 19, plead no contest in December to two felonies, including repeated sexual assault of a child, according to the report. Stancle had been accused of creating a Facebook profile belonging to a nonexistent teenage girl and then, between approximately the spring 2007 and fall 2008, using it to convince more than 30 of his male classmates to send in nude photos or videos of themselves."

My original post had a second part to it which discussed cyberbullying. But the more I thought about the Facebook blackmail incident the more I realized it is even more sinister then cyberbullying. So last night I got really upset and deleted the second part of my post about cyberbullying - because in the end it was blackmail. I decided instead of cyberbullying I will call the incident "cyberblackmail".

With scary thoughts of the cyberblackmail incident in my head as I went to bed last night, I did not sleep very well.

For some reason I came to understand that cyberbullying happens. I knew that parents need to educate their kids on the subject, give support if their child falls prey to cyberbullying and have a punishment strategy if they find out their kid(s) participates in cyberbullying. But blackmail is something I had not accepted or imagined would happen in social networks by a 19 year old. And that 16 year old boys could so easily fall prey to the cyberblackmail.

Now I know **it happens.

Next question was "How can I possibly explain this to my son?" There is a lesson that needs to be explained, but the topic is so distasteful that I would rather not discuss it.

So I decided to explain to my 11 year old son, that there are "bad" people on social networks and websites who will try to appear as your friend or a pretty girl to make you do inappropriate things. The lesson learned is NEVER send inappropriate pictures or do anything you don't feel good about because someone on a social network asked you to do. Never share personal information with someone you don't know and never meetup in person with them. Be strong, say NO. Realize that anyone who asked you to do inappropriate things is NOT their friend or someone they would want to date. And - inappropriate includes sending any picture that you would not want your future employer to see.

I have a feeling I am not going to sleep well tonight either. But at least I did have the conversation with my son. He was quiet but when I said "Do you understand?" He said "Yes, Yes.. ok... I get it".

I hope he does.

Until they have "Stop CyberBlackmail" websites, here are some good links for information on cyberbullying:

Stop Cyberbullying.org

Facebook Blog: Watch Your Words: Steps to Preventing Cyberbullying


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This is absolutely appalling! Thanks so much for sharing this despite how absolutely horrific it is. As parents, it is so important to have these conversations with our kids since better safe than sorry even though sometimes we just want to stick our heads in the sand.

Thanks Leticia for commenting.. This is so disturbing I thought it was important to pass to other moms. I almost think that all highschool principals should read and put a warning out to students..

I hadn't heard about this case - very scary! It's an important lesson for our kids - never put anything online - email, facebook, etc., that you wouldn't want the world to know/see.

I found you through the Parents mag. Congrats on being featured there!

My kids are not of age yet to be cyberbullied, but I want to point out adults can be victims as well. Just recently my hubby & I discovered a former deacon of the church we used to attend, was saying horrible things about us on Facebook. So sad when people use it to hurt others at any age. :(

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