AWARD THIS! 2023 NOMINEE! I used to think it was an overstatement, but your child’s online activities make them now more than ever an easy target to becoming a victim without ever having to leave their bedrooms. This insidious attack on your daughter or son is skyrocketing and detailed in Maria Peek’s documentary, Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic.
The scam is simple and happens right under your nose. Your child is on social media, a chat app, or playing video games online with friends, and a stranger pops in, posing as a cute guy or gal, and opens with a simple conversation about a game or hobby. After establishing this relationship, over time, the stranger grooms your child into sending a naughty pic, and with the click of the SEND button, the trap is sprung. The victim is now told that if they don’t continue sending explicit images of themselves, the photo(s) will be sent to their entire friend list.
Peek’s documentary uses a current FBI investigation of a known predator as the backbone. The film charts the first-person account of S.M., a victim of an international sextortion ring, which also took the life of Canadian teen Amanda Todd, who committed suicide because of what she was asked to do. The difference between S.M. and Amanda is that S.M. eventually told her parents and then ultimately got Homeland Security involved.
“…your child’s online activities make them now more than ever an easy target to becoming a victim without ever having to leave their bedrooms.”
The importance of Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic is crystal clear. It is the most up-to-date resource on internet exploitation today and a lifeline of hope for any child caught in its web. Utilizing interviews with FBI agents, district attorneys, directors of Homeland Security and The National Center of Mission & Exploited Children along with parents and victims, the film details how children are being exploited, the warning signs that parents should be looking out for, and what parents can do if their child is caught in this horrific game.
The movie also spends a great deal of time on the harmful effects social media has on our children in general. Bullying is one of the most apparent problems, but what about the harmful neurological effects of being online for so long? It feels like social media was initially designed to build a community, but it has the opposite effect, both socially and mentally.
I’m no child psychologist, but I’m not comfortable saying you should sit down and watch this with your child. There’s nothing perverse or explicit said or shown. However, Peek’s documentary speaks directly to the adults and gets into the legal weeds of the subject. Though there are events that are dramatized, I’m not sure younger children will connect with the grown-up conversation, though maybe older teens might.
If you are a parent of a young child or teen, Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic is a must-see documentary. During the pandemic, I got to see firsthand all of the creeps that came out of the woodwork invading social media and seemingly “harmless” chat rooms your child spent time in with friends. Peek offers invaluable education and awareness about how easy it is to get to your children.
For screening information, visit the Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic official website. Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic is a 2023 Award This! Socially Relevant Documentary nominee.
"…offers invaluable education and awareness about how easy it is to get to your children."