The dangers that can be found online are, for everyone, but especially for young people, daunting and something to be concerned enough about to revisit as an ongoing conversation within every family, again and again.

The sad truth is that you will never run out of real-life news stories as conversation starters. The details are depraved, salacious and often disseminated and delivered for effect. One could wonder if we grow numb and then distanced from the issues at play because these tragic stories could easily be confused for a Law and Order: SVU plot brief.

And maybe, we also distance ourselves from the inherent nonfiction IRL implications because in our personal morality plays, our kid doesn’t, can’t, and would never do this, that or the other. As Austin Powers says. ‘Oh go onnnnnn!’ Seasoned parents, not the ones who got it ALL right (that’s the fiction, folks) but the ones who thought they knew, learned otherwise (mostly the hard way) and know to navigate parenting ‘fails’ big and small with well-earned humility about doing the best they can, even when the best may not always be enough.

Pro-Tip: Parents may be in charge, but we are not in control. We may think we know best for the safety of our children but keeping them truly safe means giving them the tools to keep themselves safe. We must talk about what plagues modern life, and in particular, the vast challenges our kids have and will face – the byproducts of a life well-teched. What are the responses we want to instill in our youth? Let’s raise kids who have the critical reasoning skills needed to understand when and how to question the traverses of adult(ish) life. Ask yourself, what do my kids need to know to keep themselves and their friends safe?

The only way to arm our kids with coping skills and tools for resilience and positive change is to start talking and keep talking to each other. Cultivate a safe, nonjudgmental environment for connecting with your kids about tough topics and make sure you eliminate the possibility of shaming your child. Make no question, response, or curiosity taboo, even if it makes you inwardly cringe. Why? Because everything good and bad can be found pretty much effortlessly online. Your kids don’t need your permission, they need your guiding light to help them navigate their online worlds safely. And remember to adapt your parenting to your child’s needs, including understanding how they hear and process information.

With that, today’s blog links to several news stories about sextortion and teens. Simply put, teens and sextortion is a topic that should be on EVERY parent’s radar.

Discussion Questions

After reading together an age-appropriate real-life news story about sextortion, ask:

  1. Are there details about this story that seem familiar to you, something you have experienced, or a friend experienced or something you have heard of?
  2. Did anything in this story frighten you – for yourself or others? If yes, what will you try to change in yourself or others? Or what will you be looking out for online to be sure you keep yourself safe?
  3. Are you aware of other stories like this that have happened locally – or that you heard about? What about these stories made you remember them?
  4. Have you and your friends ever had a tech talk about being safe online? Can you share any of the advice that you gave or received?
  5. Related to sextortion, what do you think is not as big a deal as parents do, and what do you think is the worst aspect?
  6. What would you and your friends avoid so as to not become victims of sextortion yourselves?


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