The Internet and other technology allow teens to quickly connect and communicate with friends, search topics they would otherwise be too embarrassed to discuss with others and experiment with intimacy. While these are all healthy adolescent behaviours, technology does present risks to teens, including that of being lured online.
Adults with harmful intentions can use the Internet to prepare teens for future sexual contact. They do this by sending an adolescent sexually explicit material, misrepresenting themselves or attempting to establish a personal relationship with the teen to extort information and/or meet up with them in person.
Live streaming, for example, may be introduced for fun and then progress to persistent requests from the adult for nude or partially nude pictures/videos. Some offenders, under the guise of a romantic relationship, ask a teen to take a sexual picture and send it online. This content may be later used to blackmail or extort the teen (e.g. “If you don’t send me more photos, I will send the ones I have to all your friends/family”).
Teens are vulnerable to being lured or otherwise victimized online as their behaviour is less inhibited when they use technology. They are not developmentally ready to handle the complex situations that can arise online; conversations that may initially appear friendly can quickly become sexual or coercive in nature. Understandably, youth may feel intrigued and flattered by these conversations and continue to engage, believing it to be harmless. In other instances, the young person may believe that they are in a real romantic relationship with the online individual and may wish to meet in person.
It’s very important to have conversations with teens about the risks associated with using technology to experiment sexually. Teens will often comply with online threats in an effort to manage the situation on their own since it is often very difficult for them to seek adult assistance if they’re embarrassed and/or scared. The desire to meet the individual in person could place the teen in a dangerous situation.
The tips and other information provided herein is intended as general information only, not as advice. Readers should assess all information in light of their own circumstances, the age and maturity level of the child(ren) they wish to protect and any other relevant factors.