'Sextortion' is a disturbing trend taking the lives of teens, and parents are speaking out
These teens are seeing no way out and parents may want to take heed.
Editor's Note: This story discusses suicide. If you are having thoughts about taking your own life or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
There has been a quiet trend going on among teens that has recently started to get more attention. It's not something silly or some made-up social media trend; it's a serious issue that has caused teenagers to choose to die by suicide after they fall victim. Sextortion has been running rampant over the past year, and teenagers, especially teen boys between the ages of 14-17 are the target.
Someone pretends to be a teenage girl who is interested in the boy after connecting via SnapChat, Instagram, or some other social media site. Once they gain the boys' trust, they convince them to send inappropriate pictures, which many of them do. Yes, they know they shouldn't, but teens are impulsive and this person has won their trust. As soon as the pictures are sent, the "girl" then asks for money in exchange to keep the photos private.
By this time, the impersonator has already taken screenshots of the boy's social media accounts, including friends lists and people they tag in posts. If the teens send money, the perpetrator will only ask for more while continuing to hang those inappropriate pictures over their heads. This has proven to be dangerous.
The teens panic once they find out the person is really going to send the photos to their family and friends, which has resulted in some teens choosing suicide.
One family has taken to the media to warn of the dangers of sextortion and encourage parents to talk to their children. John DeMay and Jennifer Buta lost their son Jordan after he was a victim of sextortion during his senior year of high school.
"He was handsome, he was popular, he was the prom king," DeMay told Good Morning America.
The person Jordan was communicating with was an adult man from Nigeria according to court documents.
"He drained his bank accounts as much as he could," DeMay said. "He's [Jordan] believing that all these images are going to his friends' mothers and his friends, and it just threw him into a tailspin."
The responses to the teen when he expressed to the scammer that he was going to end his life were particularly cruel, and within a few minutes, the teen completed suicide. His parents have since been on a mission to help other teens and parents.
"Have an open conversation about the dangers of social media in general and specifically sextortion. Let your kids know, if it does happen, go to a trusted adult and let them know this is happening and get their help," Buta told GMA.
Sextortion preys on teens knowing they have less impulse control and more likely to not only send them pictures if they believe they're talking to another teen, but send them money. This results are heartbreaking but hopefully with more parents speaking out, other teens' lives will be saved. You can watch their whole interview below.
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- 5 real talk ways to teach your teens about safe sexting. ›
- Preparing for if your child expresses suicidal thoughts - Upworthy ›