Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Agency warns of child 'sextortion'

Teens who expose selves online targeted

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Amanda Todd (in picture) committed suicide after she was convinced by an online stranger to post an intimate image of herself.

DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Amanda Todd (in picture) committed suicide after she was convinced by an online stranger to post an intimate image of herself.

Teens who expose themselves on their computers risk not only being sexually exploited, but also extorted, an advocacy group warns.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection says they received a dozen complaints in the last two weeks that Canadian youth are being extorted for money with the threat their sexual images will be posted online if cash is not paid. The centre says the amounts of money paid by youth have been in the "hundreds of dollars."

Carol Todd, whose 15-year-old daughter Amanda committed suicide after being bullied online after she was convinced by an online stranger to flash the camera, said she's upset by what's now happening to teens.

"This is definitely another area of focus that families need to talk more about, including schools," Todd said Thursday. "The government PSAs (public service announcements) focus on intimate images to peers, but not to people on the Internet that aren't known in real life. What is the answer? Definitely more education is needed."

Amanda was just 15 when she hanged herself in her Port Coquitlam, B.C., home in October 2012. She made a YouTube video prior to ending her life, which has now been viewed more than 28 million times.

Signy Arnason, director of CCCP's Cybertip.ca, said it appears the alleged perpetrators are adults based overseas who begin by targeting teens on social networking sites such as Facebook by pretending to be fellow teens.

"We consider it a trend -- it's right across the country," Arnason said.

"Parents need to have really good discussions with their kids about the risks associated with engaging in sexual behaviour online."

Calling it "sextortion," Arnason said what makes it different than the case involving Amanda Todd is the request for money.

"Todd's case had nothing to do with money," Arnason said. "But in these instances, it seems solely about getting money."

Arnason said she is urging parents to talk to their children about the risks they face online.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2014 A14

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