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“It’s not just that you’re communicating with someone online but that there is a sexual or emotional nature,” says Katherine Hertlein, Ph D, an associate professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who studies online affairs.“With the Internet, we’re moving away from just physical ideas about infidelity and acknowledging emotional infidelity.” While there is no universally accepted definition, an Internet affair frequently involves intimate chat sessions and sexually stimulating conversation or cybersex, which may include filming mutual masturbation with a Web camera.In 2013, a Scottish teenager made headlines when he jumped from a bridge, taking his own life, after he reportedly was extorted by a group operating out of the Philippines.Sources told local media at the time that cops believed that Daniel Perry, 17, killed himself because he was worried the blackmailers were going to show his family a sexual encounter he had with a girl on Skype.“You can’t usually get rid of your computer in the house.Every time you walk by, you’re asking yourself if he or she is using it for an affair.” While most relationships are hampered by such workday realities as household chores and paying the bills, online relationships exist in an electronic nether world where strangers can construct their own identities, Hertlein says.“The excuses are, ‘I didn’t have sex with this person.I didn’t go out and see anybody or catch any diseases,’” she says. 4) by Hertlein and a colleague reviewed eight studies of Internet affairs and documented many negative effects from online romances, including less interest in sex in the committed relationship and neglect of work and time with children.
“Your primary partner will never be able to compare with the fantasy partner,” Hertlein says.
“The Internet is opening up these new ways of exploring your sexuality and that includes infidelity,” she says.
Americans now spend as much time online as they do watching TV — about 13 hours a week.
Once the chat ends, the victim is contacted by the blackmailer, who then tries to elicit money from him by threatening to release the sensitive images.
Two such incidents unfolded at the University of Colorado in September, prompting campus police to open an investigation and send out statements to students, warning them what to look out for.