I have never been very computer savvvy often struggling with technology, but over the years I have worked on educating myself more, particularly in the area of online safety and how it applies to the biggest target market that SAFE International teaches which is our youth. We spend most of our time teaching how to deal with people who may be face to face to their attacker in regards to violence, but more and more it is becoming popular for "attackers" to use the internet as their way to attack, very often never even coming face to face with their victim. One high profile case is the one of Amanda Todd who was stalked, bullied, and eventually committed suicide as her way out of this tragedy. The documentary on Amanda Todd was on the Canadian television show the fifth estate, https://documentarystorm.com/stalking-amanda-todd/ and is not just gut wrenching to watch as a parent, but also educational in how these pedophiles choose, groom, and stalk their victims. I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss some of the methods they use to victimize our youth because in my opinion, the idea of being attacked online is taken even less seriously by parents compared to topics like sexual assault, bullying in person, or other crimes that are committed face to face. Make no mistake, both are just as serious and need to spoken about with others, particularly our kids. And yes it does happen to adults of all ages as well so it is not just a topic for our youth.
One of the terms I heard used in this documentary is people being referred to as "Cappers". What is a Capper? A Capper is a person, very often a pedophile who will search online through webcams, forums, and live blogs for their victims assuming fake profiles in an order to friend others in seemingy innocent conversations sharing similar likes and dislikes. It is very unassuming at first, but slowly step by step as similar face to face scenarios, they will be there to lie, manipulate, befriend with an ultimate goal to extort or blackmail their victims. In the case of Amanda Todd the predator had used 86 different Facebook accounts. YES 86 unique accounts targeting a minimum of 75 different victims from around the world. This is just one person of thousands and thousands who will spend vast amounts of time targeting people to become their victims for their own sick pleasure or even more serious offences. And what makes all this even more sickening is there is a large circle of Cappers who exchange their ideas, strategies and stories on to find their victims in forums. They have even gone as far as having awards for the top Cappers of the year on these pages or blogs. A large number of them extort this illegal material from their victims and then exchange or sell with others seeking out this material. One popular site they find their victims is one called blogTV which is an online community where a lot of youth meet others, share videos, chat, advice etc but there are countless people on sites like this who are posing as teens or younger. And because it is live chat it makes it easier for them to find their victims through their strategies.
Another excellent explanation I found was on the site http://www.personalprotectionsystems.ca/the-digital-sheepdog/the-danger-of-cappers.html where they explain:
Known as “cappers” by the kids , these pedophiles, if not using shock and awe techniques, will engage our kids in what they call the “jailbait” game where they will reward our kids with points if they do certain things in front of their web cam. These “things” usually start with non sexual behavior, like show me a smile for 10 point, which then escalates to things like; show me your panties for 100 points, show me wearing your bra for 200 points and show me your breasts for 300 points. While this game is taking place, the capper will record your child’s actions in front of their web cam, which they will then sell or trade on line. The capper may also use the video to extort the child into further inappropriate sexual behavior on-line at the risk of the capper releasing the video to parents, or to all of the child’s Facebook friends, if they don’t do what the capper wants; something that is being called sextortion.
So how do we as parents battle this? There are ways to protect from these sites with software, but that is an area I am not qualified to speak on, but you can search online for a number of companies with advice or programs to deal with this.
As always, in my opinion, the key is to keep an open dialog with your kids and look for the signs of behaviour from them that might indicate there are issues in their lives that could be more serious than you might ever expect. First and foremost do not be apathetic and deny that this will ever happen to your child. It happens to people of all ages and over the years I can promise you one of the things I hear ALL THE TIME in regards to violence is something like, "I never thought this could happen to me or my family". Or "Things like this do not happen where we live". Well they do happen in every city, town, or village regardless of size and this is a world wide issue because it is online having nothing to do with where you live so it is much easier for people to ignore or not take seriously. What are some of the warning signs your child may have fallen victim to an online predator? Here are 10 excellent signs, http://resources.uknowkids.com/blog/bid/173713/10-Signs-Your-Child-is-a-Cyberbullying-Victim
In my opinion, we should EXPECT that teens or pre-teens are going to lie to us because every single one of us did as kids at some point of time. Many parents believe that their kids would not lie because we they have a very open line of communication with no secrets. But the problem nowadays with the internet is that our kids may make an error in judgement that to them seems like the end of the world, literally. Perhaps they have sent a nude pic or short video on a dare to a friend or to one of these online pedophiles who they mistakenly think is a friend. The difference is some friends may keep it quiet, some may use it for blackmail in the event of a bullying situation or the Capper who is aiming to destroy your life through a well planned campaign of blackmail and manipuation for their own sick pleasure or those they share that twisted commonality with. But to some it really does seem like worst possible thing that could ever happen in their lives so they keep it to themselves.
Many parents say they know the passwords to their kids different accounts. How do you know you do? Do you have the software installed to address this? Were you always honest with your parents as already mentioned? There are no easy answers on how to address this and there are extremes of course, but you should expect your teen to lie rather than keeping your head in the sand and not thinking they ever would. I think this is likely to create a healthier environment to get to the honest dialog.
We have all made stupid decisions in our lives, but the ones I mentioned earlier, if we had the internet when I was younger, I know as a teen I would not have been so honest to share with my parents. And let's not forget they are kids who do not have the decision or rationale thinking ability as some adults. I say some because many adults also fall prey to these crimes. Or they do not understand the mind of these pedophiles and how to recognize they are being victimized until it is too late thus creating even more hesitation to come forward due to being judged or humilated.
True openness between parents and their kids will NOT have the parents saying things like, "What the hell were you thinking by posting that pic or video!", or "Why would you do such a stupid thing!". I would ask when you were a teen and you heard that from your parents, how much more open did you become in sharing with them about a particular incident you were going through?
Remember they are a victim and need to know they have your full support on this without judgement!
Things I would discuss with them in an effort to educate, but again with no specific judgement are the following. And I would encourage parents to share their personal stories, even if they are still or were embarrassing ones at the time. This helps your child to identifly with you, or that you may just actually understand a bit of what they are going through. Some of those may include:
At what point did you feel you can trust any of these people you are talking to in this chat room? Ask if there was maybe a key moment they felt they could trust the person or was it a slow build with the other person seemingly being the only person who "seemed" to understand them and what they were going through? It is quite common for someone who is bullied by friends at school to find who they consider to be "real friends" online.
What judgements have you made about others in these chat rooms and can you see where others may make the same about you? By seeing both sides of the issue, maybe we can start to see how we can be manipulated.
What is your criteria for considering someone a friend? And if you have never met someone, can you consider or call them a friend? For some friendship may require very little particularly if they have few friends.
Would a true friend ask for something like a pic or video of you nude and keep pushing if you were not comfortable with it? True friends will not push, coerce, or manipulate you.
Explain how blackmail works, why it is effective and how it rarely if ever makes the problem go away.
Teach them how these online predators can get personal information out of them without directly asking. (If you do not know how, do some research on the topic). It is quite easy by asking indirect questions to get very personal information out of someone.
Teach them the manipulation strategies used by predators like compliments which may be very subtle at first, but escalate in inappropriateness as the predator guages your response. They may drawback a bit, then move forward in an effort to reach their desired end result.
They may seem like your only support on a topic that has you at odds with your parents or friends thus building this supposed trusted relationship as someone you can open up to and be your honest self.
As the relationship progresses it is quite a common strategy for someone to use guilt to get what they want. If you really liked or loved me, you would do.......! That pressure to maintain the friendship can often lead to poor choices.
Or terms like, "I Promise" in an effort to get what they want because most people still think that if someone uses the word promise that they must mean it. If you send me this pic or video, I promise I will send you.....!
If someone, the predator says the victimization will stop if they just do A, B, or C., that it will never stop! The moment someone gives you an ultimatum, just know there is a very serious issue.
Make sure they know that this is much more common than they can imagine and that there is an excellent chance some of their friends have experienced something similar.
That they are not to take on this battle by themselves because these predators are highly skilled and do this day in, day out. Similar to how an attacker will choose their victim in a face to face scenario, if their intended victim appears to be too much work, they will move on and look for another one. They want the easiest potential victim who they can manipulate as soon as possible.
As always, KEEP SAFE!