What happens when young love turns sour in the digital age?

so much has changed since we had our first crush. teenage romances can have alarming outcomes when things turn sour.

In her latest blog, our Education Manager and resident mummy blogger Jess shares her experiences from working at WA Police and the very frequent and numerous cases of Revenge Porn. If you'd like to keep up to date on cyber safety advice and app reviews, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter using the link (above right on desktop, below article on mobile). 

What is Revenge Porn?

Revenge porn is a term that has only entered the dictionary in the past few years. Defined as the sexually explicit portrayal of one or more people distributed without their consent via any medium.  While it can have devastating consequences, it generally starts as a private act between two individuals, with a high number of incidents involving teens. When it does go wrong it can leave the victim feeling isolated and not knowing where to get help. During my time at Sex Crime Division, with the WA Police, I predominantly saw two examples of revenge porn. The first was when a relationship ended and explicit images or videos (usually sexting images) were passed on, without consent, usually to other school members. You can only imagine the torture this causes the victims when faced with thinking the whole school has seen their private photos. It often led to cyber bullying and/or serious mental health issues.

The other example that I saw increasing at an alarming rate, was when a young person was groomed by a cyber predator into a fake online relationship, encouraged to send naked photos and then blackmailed for either money or more photos.  The predator usually threatened to share the photos with their friends and family if their demands were not met. The speed that children fall into these relationships would shock you and often I saw it happen in a matter of just a few interactions or “posts/comments”.   Children are very vulnerable and will quickly believe situations that adults would question.  

I once dealt with a young girl that truly believed she was in a relationship with a celebrity from a world famous boy band. Even though her mother and the Police saw blinding holes in his story, the young lady thought she was in love and had sent him several naked photos.  As you can imagine the whole ordeal caused major distress to the whole family.  Unfortunately examples like this occurred on a daily basis.

How can parents help?

Nationally, people can be charged with ‘using a carriage service to cause offence or to harass or menace another person’ under Commonwealth telecommunications legislation.  But, as in the case above, if the cyber predator resides outside their jurisdiction the Police are powerless to act, which is a common occurrence.  So what can we do about Revenge Porn? Google and Microsoft have announced they will remove links from search results when reported by victims.  Twitter, Facebook and Reddit have all banned revenge porn posts too.  

More importantly though, we need to act proactively rather than reactively after things have gone wrong.  As parents we need to teach our children that love should not require nude photos. Ensuring that our children love and respect themselves and demand respect from their partners too.

Beyond that, the tips we covered in our blog explaining Sexting apply here too;  
1. Have open and honest conversations with your children
2. Don’t abstain from educating your own children about sex and sexualized behaviours. If you don’t educate them, somebody else will
3. Do not assume that your child will not pass on a nude photo or take one of themselves and share it
4. Discuss the risks of sexting including how they would feel if their photos were shared
5. Be very clear about the law & criminal consequences with your children
6. Discuss their digital footprint and what that means
7. Warn your children to never share photos with people they don’t physically know offline.  Consider providing examples of grooming and pedophilia
8. Attempt to explore if these behaviours are part of a bigger problem with self-esteem & confidence. Like everyone, children like attention and reassurance but as parents we need to help our kids find healthier ways to feel good about themselves.
9. Ensure they know who they can talk to and where they can get help if needed. They may not want that to be you, so ensure they have a safe person to confide in.
By Jessica, Family Zone

Jess is a mum of two and recently came on board at Family Zone after she worked as an Intelligence Analyst for the WA Police for 9 years. During that time she was placed in the cyber area of the Sex Crime Division where she dealt with families and victims of cybercrime, and her passion for cyber safety developed.  “I couldn't believe the enormity of cases in sexting, grooming and paedophilia that I dealt with on a daily basis. One of the common themes I saw was parents overwhelmed & not knowing what to do.  I really wanted to get involved in a prevention role where I could help families protect their children.  Family Zone is this and more!!” Cyber Safety Sorted!

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Topics: Parental Controls, Cyber Safety, Cyber Experts, sexting, parenting, revenge

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