Winnipeg, MB – The Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre) reports an 89 per cent increase in the past two years* in online sextortion cases among teenage boys, prompting the Canadian Centre to develop Canada’s first awareness and prevention campaign for boys, launching on May 23. The new campaign uses humour to connect with boys and deliver the serious message of “don’t get sextorted.” The new www.dontgetsextorted.ca website offers resources for boys, educators and parents to facilitate open conversations about the issue and a link to confidential online help. Downloadable, teen-friendly sharable communication tools and the #dontgetsextorted hashtag encourage sharing of the prevention message among boys.
“Awareness is critical because you can’t avoid a threat you don’t know about,” says Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. “Sextortion is based on deceiving youth and obtaining sexual images – we need to drive home the Don’t Get Sextorted message that teens don’t send one. We must break down the communication barriers around embarrassing topics for teenagers. Our campaign gives teens, parents and educators an easy ‘way-in’ to a tough conversation.”
Funny character provides “way in” to tough conversation; “way out” of sextortion
The Don’t Get Sextorted, Send a Naked Mole Rat campaign breaks down communication barriers with a character that uses humour and innuendo to appeal to teenage boys; capture their attention; and make it easier to talk about sextortion. The naked mole rat character is also portrayed in memes that can be sent as a prankster-style alternative, to those asking for nudes online. It gives boys an easy “way out” of a potential sextortion situation.
“We’re hoping that this character will be effective in capturing the attention of boys to bring widespread attention to the issue,” adds McDonald. “We want our communications to empower boys to think twice before sending a nude. The threat of sextortion is scary enough, but having the conversation doesn’t have to be.”
The naked mole rat – a little-known African rodent; pink, hairless, and three to four inches in size – is the ideal character for giving boys something to talk about and an alternative to sending a nude. The rodent is cold-blooded; feels no pain; and can be deprived of oxygen for up to 18 minutes. With its feature role in Canada’s first sextortion awareness campaign targeted at boys, it may be able to add protecting Canadian teens to its list of capabilities.
Online sextortion starts in social media
“With the high usage of social media, we consider online sextortion a high risk threat to Canadian youth,” says McDonald. “Sexual curiosity and not knowing how to respond to threats of blackmail make teenage boys very susceptible to being duped and exploited. The consequences are extremely damaging and awareness is key to prevention.”
McDonald explains that online sextortion of teen boys begins in social media, where they are approached by a perpetrator who is believed to be a peer showing romantic interest. When the conversation moves to a livestreaming platform, boys are convinced to share nudes – sexually explicit images and videos of themselves. Once the perpetrator has the material, they mislead the boy into believing they won’t share it with his entire contact list if additional material or cash is provided. In reality, compliance only leads to more threats and sextortion.
*Based on reported incidents of online sextortion to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in 2015 and 2016, compared to 2013 and 2014, via www.cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline to report online sexual exploitation of children.