Hey Kids, Please Don’t Extort Your Classmates!

MIssissippi Catfish from Alan Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons

Mississippi Catfish from Alan Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons

Can I just tell you how glad I am not to be a teenager? Sure, not having to pay electric bills was great. Snow days were a ton of fun when I didn’t have to shovel. But if I had to live in a teen world nominated by Snapchat, I would move to the Arctic Circle or Litchfield County or somewhere else with bad cellular reception. Why? Because of stories like this from The Courant:

“In May 2014, a 15-year-old local boy received a Facebook friend request from a stranger identifying herself as a 13-year-old girl. He accepted and soon he and the girl, Casey Morales, were chatting and sharing naked photos via Snapchat, another social media application.

The photos Casey sent disappeared after three seconds, a feature of Snapchat. Casey kept screen shots of the boy’s photos, court records unsealed this week indicate.

Not long after, Casey repeatedly demanded the unidentified boy send her a $25 Apple iTunes gift card, and that he go on another website and make sexually explicit videos of himself, or she would post a collage of the explicit photos to the boy’s Facebook page, the records say.”

It gets worse.

Apparently, the 13-year-old girl was actually a 15-year-old boy who has been doing this to men all over the state. He’s a Hartford resident who attends Glastonbury High School, and now that he’s out on bail he can’t return to school because he can’t have contact with any of his victims — which means he catfished at least one of his classmates.

(You may also notice that The Courant uses the kid’s name, and that he has been transferred to adult court. This seems wrong to us, so we’re not using his name. What he did was effed up, but he’s still a 15-year-old. Think about the terrible things you said and did at that age.)

The weird thing is, all this kid wanted was a $25 iTunes gift card. The potential reward here really does not outweigh the risk. I do, however, feel like this could be the plot of a bad movie. In that movie the kid would be bullied by the rich kids in his school and would exact his revenge through a catfishing/extortion plot. You might even feel bad for the kid at first, but then he gets high on his power — and all the iTunes gift cards — and the underdog turns into the villain.

I’ll write that screenplay later. Meanwhile, here’s my advice for school systems. When gym teachers across the country sit down students on the brink of puberty to talk about periods and “nocturnal emissions” they should probably also talk about the dangers of sending naked pictures of yourself via the web. (Maybe Sesame Street could cover this for the younger set.) I don’t care what Snapchat says, THE WEB IS FOREVER! If, when you’re an adult with a fully formed brain, you still want to take naked pictures of yourself, get a Polaroid camera. You may have to search vintage stores for them — or maybe this can be the market that helps bring Polaroid back — but at least you can burn the evidence if necessary.

It is never OK to violate someone else’s privacy — or extort them — but there are a lot of jerks out there, and you’ll want to learn how to recognize/thwart them.