In California, federal officials say one 31-year-old man even stooped to remotely activating some girls' webcams without their knowledge and recorded them undressing or having sex.
Teenagers are obviously more vulnerable to blackmail because most parents would be shocked to learn their children are flashing their private parts on cell phones or Internet sites. One survey found 20 percent of teenagers and 33 percent of young adults aged 20 to 26 said they had sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. AP quoted attorney Parry Aftab to sum it all up about this growing trend of online exhibitionism: "Kids are putting their head in the lion's mouth every time they do this."
How sad it is for teens today. Innocence is gone. It's impossible to avoid the omnipresence of sex in our popular culture, especially youth culture. It's one thing for teenagers to feel like they're sexually hyperactive. It's another for every executive making TV shows, movies and pop songs to multiply that thought endlessly to enrich themselves.
Even sexting is a trendy TV topic. Last season on the hit Fox show "Glee," one cheerleader boasted to another that her sex texts were impossibly hot, as if this kind of cellular titillation is what every cool cheerleader should be doing.
The entertainment industry -- including the social-media websites -- are forcing parents to develop a whole new sophistication, telling children that they should never submit to posing for anything that they wouldn't want parents, teachers and ministers to see on the Internet.
This "sextortion" trend is nastier than mere sexting because one momentary mistake by an otherwise moral child can lead her down a path from bending to peer pressure to involuntarily becoming an online sex slave. One mistake.