I have never been very computer savvy, often struggling with technology. Still, over the years, I have worked on educating myself more, particularly in the area of online safety and how it applies to the most significant target market that SAFE International teaches, which is our youth. We spend most of our time teaching how to deal with people who may be face-to-face with their attacker in regards to violence. Still, it is becoming popular for “attackers” to use the internet as their way to attack, very often never even coming face to face with their victim. One high profile case is Amanda Todd, who was stalked, bullied, and eventually committed suicide as her way out of this tragedy. The documentary on Amanda Todd was on the Canadian television show the fifth estate, https://documentarystorm.com/stalking-amanda-todd/. It is not just gut-wrenching to watch as a parent, but also educational in how these pedophiles choose, groom, and stalk their victims. I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss some of the methods they use to victimize our youth. Because in my opinion, the idea of being attacked online is taken even less seriously by parents than on topics like sexual assault, bullying in person, or other crimes committed face to face. Both are just as serious and need to speak about with others, particularly our kids. And yes, it does happen to adults of all ages as well, so it is not just a topic for our youth.
One of the terms I heard used in this documentary is people being referred to as “Cappers”. What is a Capper? A Capper is a person, very often a pedophile who will search online through webcams, forums, and live blogs for their victims, assuming fake profiles to friend others in seemingly innocent conversations sharing similar likes and dislikes. It is very unassuming at first, but slowly step by step as the same face to face scenarios, they will be there to lie, manipulate, befriend with an ultimate goal to extort or blackmail their victims. In the case of Amanda Todd, the predator had used 86 different Facebook accounts. YES 86 different accounts targeting a minimum of 75 different victims from around the world. This is just one person of thousands and thousands who will spend vast amounts of time targeting people to become their victims for their sick pleasure or even more serious offences. And what makes all this even more sickening is there is a large circle of Cappers who exchange their ideas, strategies and stories on to find their victims in forums. They have gone as far as having awards for the top Cappers of the year on these pages or blogs. Many of them extort this illegal material from their victims and then exchange or sell with others seeking out this material. One popular site they find their victims is blog tv, an online community where a lot of youth meet others, share videos, chat, advise, etc., but there are countless people on sites like this who are posing as teens or younger. And because it is live chat, it is easier for them to find their victims through their strategies.
Another excellent explanation I found was on a site I can’t find the URL where they explain:
Known as “cappers” by the kids, these pedophiles, if not using shock and awe techniques, will engage our kids in what they call the “jailbait” game where they will reward our kids with points to do certain things in front of their webcam. These “things” usually start with non-sexual behaviour, like show me a smile for 10 points, which then escalates to things like; show me your panties for 100 points, show me wearing your bra for 200 points and show me your breasts for 300 points. While this game is taking place, the Capper will record your child’s actions in front of their webcam, which they will then sell or trade online. The Capper may also use the video to extort the child into further inappropriate sexual behaviour online. They will threaten to release the video to parents, or all of the child’s Facebook friends if they don’t do what the Capper wants; something called sextortion.
So how do we as parents battle this? There are ways to protect from these sites with software, but that is an area I am not qualified to speak on, but you can search online for several companies with advice or programs to deal with this.
As always, in my opinion, the key is to keep an open dialogue with your kids and look for signs of behaviour from them that might indicate there are issues in their lives that could be more serious than you might ever expect. First and foremost, do not be apathetic and deny that this will ever happen to your child. It happens to people of all ages, and over the years, I can promise you one of the things I hear ALL THE TIME in regards to violence is something like, “I never thought this could happen to my family or me.” Or “Things like this do not happen where we live”. Well, they do happen in every city, town, or village regardless of size and this is a worldwide issue because it is online having nothing to do with where you live, so it is much easier for people to ignore or not take seriously. What are some of the warning signs your child may have fallen victim to an online predator? Here are ten excellent signs, http://resources.uknowkids.com/blog/bid/173713/10-Signs-Your-Child-is-a-Cyberbullying-Victim
We should EXPECT that teens or pre-teens are going to lie to us because every one of us did as kids at some point in time. Many parents believe that their kids would not lie because they have a very open communication line with no secrets. But the problem nowadays with the internet is that our kids may make an error in judgement that seems like the end of the world, literally. Perhaps they have sent a nude picture, or short video on a dare to a friend or to one of these online pedophiles they mistakenly think is a friend. The difference is some friends may keep it quiet; some may use it for blackmail in the event of a bullying situation. Or the Capper is aiming to destroy your life through a well-planned blackmail campaign and manipulation for their sick pleasure or those they share a twisted commonality with.
Many parents say they know the passwords to their kid’s different accounts. How do you know for sure? Do you have the software installed to address this? Were you always honest with your parents, as already mentioned? There are no easy answers on how to solve this, and there are extremes, of course, but you should expect your teen to lie rather than keeping your head in the sand and not thinking they ever would. I believe this is likely to create a healthier environment to get to honest dialogue.
We have all made stupid decisions in our lives, but I mentioned earlier that if we had the internet when I was younger, I know as a teen I would not have been so honest to share with my parents. And let’s not forget they are kids who do not have the decision or rationale thinking ability as some adults. I say some because many adults also fall prey to these crimes. They may not understand these pedophiles’ minds or how to recognize they are being victimized until it is too late. This may bring more hesitation to come forward due to being judged or the fear of humiliation.
Real openness between parents and their kids will NOT have the parents saying things like, “What the hell were you thinking by posting that pic or video!”, or “Why would you do such a stupid thing!”. I would ask when you were a teen, and you heard that from your parents, how much more open did you become in sharing with them about a particular incident you were going through?
Remember, they are victims and need to know they have your full support on this without judgement!
Things I would discuss with them to educate, but again with no specific judgement, are the following. And I would encourage parents to share their personal stories, even if they are still or were embarrassing ones at the time. This helps your child identify with you, or that you may understand a bit of what they are going through. Some of those may include:
At what point did you feel you can trust any of these people you are talking to in this chat room? Ask if there was maybe a critical moment they thought they could trust the person, or was it a slow build with the other person seemingly being the only person who “seemed” to understand them and what they were going through? It is common for someone who is bullied by friends at school to find who they consider being “real friends” online.
What judgements have you made about others in these chat rooms, and can you see where others may make the same about you? By understanding both sides of the issue, we may start to see how the manipulation occurs.
What are your criteria for considering someone a friend? And if you have never met someone, can you find or call them a friend? Some friendships may require very little, particularly if they have few friends.
Would a real friend ask for something like a pic or video of you nude and keep pushing if you were not comfortable with it? Real friends will not push, coerce, or manipulate you.
Explain how blackmail works, why it is useful and how it rarely, if ever, makes the problem go away.
Teach them how these online predators can get personal information out of them without directly asking. It is quite easy to ask indirect questions to get very personal information out of someone.
Teach them the manipulation strategies used by predators like compliments, which may be very subtle at first, but escalate in inappropriateness as the predator gauges your response. They may draw back a bit, then move forward to reach their desired result.
They may seem like your only support on a topic that has you at odds with your parents or friends, thus building this supposed trusted relationship as someone you can open up to and be your honest self.
As the relationship progresses, it is quite a common strategy for someone to use guilt to get what they want. If you liked or loved me, you would do…….! That pressure to maintain friendship can often lead to poor choices.
Or terms like “I Promise” to get what they want because most people still think that if someone uses the word promise that they must mean it. If you send me this pic or video, I promise I will send you…..!
If someone, the predator, says the victimization will stop if they do A, B, or C., that it will never stop! The moment someone gives you an ultimatum, know there is a severe issue.
Ensure they know that this is much more common than they can imagine and that there is an excellent chance some of their friends have experienced something similar.
Let them know they are not to take on this battle by themselves because these predators are highly skilled and do this day in, day out. Like how an attacker will choose their victim in a face-to-face scenario if their intended victim appears to be too much work, they will move on and look for another. They want the easiest potential victim who they can manipulate as soon as possible.
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Managing Director, SAFE International