What is sextortion?A mother warns her parents after her son’s death

This article deals with the issue of suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or dial 988 to call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Braden Marcus, 15, had what his mother said was a “great weekend of football” on Saturday 21 October 2021. To celebrate, his teenage boy in Ohio ordered his favorite food and “spent the rest of the night doing homework, playing, sleeping with cousins ​​on Xbox,” he said. I was. Mom wrote in a Facebook post.

“It’s the typical life of a teenager,” added Braden’s mother, Jennifer Arjiro-Marcus.

Less than 24 hours later, Brayden committed suicide. His family believes he was the victim of a cyber “sextortion”. Local authorities launched a criminal investigation on the case.

“I’m only 15, why are you dthis to me? ”

At 11:01 a.m. the next morning, after Braden began working on his driver’s education test and schoolwork, his mother posted on Instagram that he “disguised himself as a high school girl” and “befriended a cyber bully.” Told.

After exchanging messages for five minutes, Argiro-Markus wrote that the person asked Braden to “send a message using Google Hangouts.” Braden agreed, but the person he was chatting with wasn’t who they claimed to be.

“Things went south within half an hour,” his mother wrote on Facebook.

An online predator sent a photo of his son and continued to claim it was the girl in the photo. I wrote no repeatedly because of my age.

“Hackers kept the pressure on,” writes Braden’s mother. “Once B suspended his account, hackers hunted him down on his Instagram messenger. Eventually, B gave in and sent the photo. I knew exactly what to say and what to post.”

Once the hackers obtained Braden’s photos, Arjiro-Marcus said his son was blackmailed and told to pay $1,800 to the predators, along with other pictures the hackers had taken from Braden’s Instagram account.

“The message lasts 27 minutes,” she wrote. I’m only 15 and you’re going to ruin my life.’ In a way, it’s a thread you don’t want to read, but here it is.” He explained that he had to wait 10 months to get a court order to unlock his son’s phone so Apple could find out what happened.)

At 11:28 am, Brayden committed suicide.

EDIT: Yes you can share too ❤️?❤️ Here is the final PSA…to say the last 11 months have been exhausting…

Contributor Jennifer Argyro Marcus upon Wednesday, August 24, 2022

“He was literally a boy loved by everyone: family, friends, teachers,” Arguillo-Marcus said. parents today“His smile lit up a room wherever he went. He enjoyed playing sports, playing Xbox with his cousins, and playing pranks with his buddies.”

Now Argiro-Markus is paying tribute to his son’s memory by warning parents about the dangers of online sexual exploitation. Braden Marcus Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“Be sure to talk to your children. online cyber crimeWhen they come to you for making mistakes, tell them over and over again that nothing is worth their lives.You can’t warn these predators if you don’t try to stop them and don’t know it. ”

What is Online or Cyber ​​Sextortion?

“Sextortion is a term used in recent years to describe a form of blackmail in which predators use sexually explicit images or videos of other people to engage in sexual or exploitative relationships, online or offline. or extorting money from victims,” ​​said Donna Hughes, president and CEO. come ona non-profit organization dedicated to preventing the exploitation of children using the Internet, told TODAY.

“Really, this is a kind of online blackmail,” she added.

Since 2016, CyberTipline has received 262,573 reports of online seduction involving sextortion.according to a report from the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children.

From 2019 to 2021, Number of reports of sextortion more than 2 timesaccording to the same report.

“It can happen to anyone at any time,” Hughes explained. “Children are really drawn into these traps by people who want to sexually exploit them or make money from them.”

How Online Predators Groom Their Victims

According to Hughes, online forums that allow people to sign up to use the platform anonymously make it easier for predators to pretend to be seemingly harmless individuals, allowing them to change their online personalities to victims’ preferences and preferences. It has become easier to meet their needs.

Braden Marcus (courtesy Jennifer Argiro-Markus)

Braden Marcus (courtesy Jennifer Argiro-Markus)

“They’re trying to get kids to trust them by appealing to their curiosity,” Hughes explained. “I once interviewed a convicted sex offender for three hours in a high-security prison in Virginia. You will become human.”

Liz Repking, Founder and Senior Cyber ​​Safety Expert Cyber ​​safety counselingInternet safety consulting and education firm says that once predators gain a child’s trust, they can start building relationships.

“When emotions are involved, a teenager’s decision-making goes out the window,” Lepking told TODAY. We make the wrong decisions, and predators take advantage of it.”

Reported 4 in 10 minors say they have been approached online According to an online grooming report published in April 2022 by international anti-trafficking organization Thorn, it partnered with market research firm Benenson Strategy Group to say they were trying to “befriend and manipulate.” by someone they believe in.

When predators reach a point where they believe they can demand and receive images, they are now in power.

“They weigh in on two emotions that are very difficult to manage: shame and fear,” she added. I have the shame of sending pictures of and the fear of how it will affect them i.e. my parents are trying to kill me and this could scar my life forever Yes, shame and fear create chaos and children don’t know what to do and end their lives.”

How Parents Protect Teens From Sextortion

There are a number of parental controls and other software that help parents protect and monitor their children’s online behavior, but Repking warns parents not to rely solely on those guardrails.

“I tell parents that this is a parenting problem, not a technical one, and parenting cannot be outsourced to software,” Repking added. “If you need help with parenting, you can use software, but the risk of turning on a lot of controls is for you as a parent to step back.”

In addition to utilizing certain parental controls, Repking and Hughes advocate being honest with children in an age-appropriate way about the dangers of the Internet, and about the devices and online platforms their children use. We encourage parents to deepen their knowledge. I’m using.

“If I had a teenage son, I would print out articles about these young boys and show them to him.” Teenagers tend to disrespect their parents. and ‘we don’t get it.’ I often encourage parents to take advantage of objective third-party information, such as articles that can initiate a dialogue. .”

Hughes added that if parents feel their child isn’t old enough to have that kind of conversation, “Parents, they’re not old enough to use the device.” I got

In addition to providing age-appropriate information to children and looking for warning signs, Repking says there is always an “exit strategy” when it comes to sharing explicit photos and videos online. I said parents need to let their kids know.

“That’s the most important thing: letting kids know that you’re not going to get mad, that their lives aren’t going to be ruined, that you’re there to help them,” she said. Sure, it makes them feel safe and secure, but emotionally they say, ‘I’m here. I’m here for you. I’m here to support you.’ I love you and I will always keep you safe.”

Finally, Hughes encourages all parents to be aware that this can happen to any child at any time.

“No child is immune from online sexual exploitation,” she said. “Yours”

Parents looking for online resources to better understand online predators and cyber sextortion and protect their children, please visit: InternetSafety101.org for more information.

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This article was originally published on TODAY.com