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We sat down with Jordan Granacki, one of our Senior Threat Analysts, who shared advice for parents and students to ensure a safer online experience. Check out our recent blog post to learn more about Jordan and her work at Safer Schools Together.

About Jordan Granacki

Jordan Granacki is currently a Senior Threat Analyst at Safer Schools Together and has been with the company for 4 years. She recently completed a Master’s of Public Health in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. During this program, Jordan was a founding member of USC’s Maternal Cannabis Lab and contributed as a graduate research assistant on several qualitative research studies regarding maternal health inequality. In 2023, Jordan has co-authored several peer-reviewed articles published in Women’s Health Reports and Nature. 

What has impacted you the most from being a Threat Analyst at Safer Schools Together? 

The most impactful concept I’ve learned from working as a Threat Analyst at Safer Schools Together has been the idea of an empty vessel. This concept makes a lot of sense given that in many of the cases we work on, behaviors stem from students feeling lonely and searching for connection. Sextortion cases are a great example of this; students don’t set out to put themselves in harm’s way, but often, the online places where they seek or find connection are set up in a way that may be dangerous.

Even the apps and platforms aimed towards today’s youth may be dangerous. Apps such as Yubo or Wizz claim to match users based on age, however, there is no age verification on these apps (or if there is, it is easily passed) resulting in youth connecting to adults. When spending time on these apps it becomes clear that the culture can be inappropriate for underage users. Profiles on Yubo and Wizz commonly have “I don’t send” denotations in user bios as many users report to become inundated with requests for intimate or explicit images. Additionally, some profiles on these apps list Snapchat usernames directing other users to add the Snapchat user for “menus.” “Menus” in this case appears to refer to explicit content the user is willing to send for a price. Luckily, or unluckily, many of these profiles are likely spam accounts looking to extort money or steal identifying information. However, their existence could lead today’s youth to believe the sale of explicit content is an easy way to make money online.  

As someone personally on the cusp between Millennial and Gen-Z, messaging platforms like Kik were just gaining traction when I was in high school. I, like many in my age group, have a story of befriending a stranger online and being duped into sharing information that could have jeopardized my safety. The concept of ‘stranger danger’ is difficult to grasp when everything in you wants to believe the user on the screen is who they say they are.

What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to parents after working as a threat analyst?  

Help first, consequences second. The longer cases of sextortion play out without adult intervention, the more harmful they can become. Too frequently, a delay in asking for help can stem from the fear of being punished. Starting with assistance allows you to ask questions to understand how an individual found themselves in this situation. ‘How did you meet this user? What did you send? Why did you send it? What are they asking you for?’ Beginning with a help first approach creates a dialogue where you gain insight into youths’ online activities and provides you with the space to offer guidance or identify where outside support may be necessary.

What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to students after working as a threat analyst?

  1. Do not engage with a user online who is threatening, bullying, or trying to extort you. Document, report, block. Screenshot the messages and the username. Report the user to the platform. Block the user to stop contact. Especially in cases of sextortion, the user on the other end gains nothing from distributing intimate or explicit images (whether they’re of you or artificially generated). The user trying to threaten, bully, or extort you only has the upper hand if you continue to interact with them.  
  2. Know that you are not alone. Thousands of other young people have been the target of online predators and those looking to extort them. It is unfortunately a very common and lucrative scam. Even members of our Threat Analyst team have friends and family that have been targeted. Don’t be embarrassed. Tell a trusted adult.  

What trends do you anticipate being popular in 2024? 

With platforms such as Meta (Facebook and Instagram) beginning to focus more on protecting today’s youth online by restricting inappropriate content, I would be unsurprised if youth moved toward less moderated sites such as Tumblr, VSCO, or even Blogger. In the past year, our team has even had cases of students creating their own websites that act as online journals or blogs.  

Additionally, private communication platforms such as Discord are likely to continue growing in popularity. Assessing worrisome behaviors on these types of platforms can be challenging, so teams will rely on other students to bring concerning behaviors to the attention of a trusted adult. The increasing popularity of platforms like Discord is another reason school administrators need to emphasize that coming forward is not about getting your friends in trouble, it is about getting them out of trouble.

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