naked mole rat PSA extortion

The poor naked mole rat was not given the best lot in life. These hairless, wrinkly, whitish-pinkish underground dwellers are pretty much blind, eat their own feces and can't regulate their own body temperature.

It's their unfortunate appearance — described by some as a "penis with teeth" — that made them the perfect mascot for this new public-service announcement from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Aimed at teenage boys (and younger ones, too), the PSA stars a smiling, tweed-jacket-wearing optimist who speaks both to the camera and to various stereotypical teenage boys in the background.

With pep in his step, he says that sometimes strangers online ask for naked pictures or videos, even though you've just met. You may think it's a girl your age, but it may not be. When you send the image or video, they tell you to send more or they'll send it to your friends and family. That's sextortion: "It’s extortion, but with ‘sex’ at the beginning," he quips.

Instead of sending a nude, the PSA says you should instead send a photo of a naked mole rat. "Long, veiny and fleshy, the naked mole rat — you can call it Willy — looks a lot like that picture you were just about to send, except it’s got two beady little eyes and four sharp teeth at the tip," the spokesman says. The organization even made memes and gifs of mole rats that you can download and share. (That's a one of them above ... how's that for subtle?)

Lianna McDonald, the center’s executive director, conceded to the New Yorker that the campaign uses humor to address a serious topic. “Being steeped in child protection, it was a really big step for us to take,” she said. “It’s brazen. But when you’re dealing with young people, you have to think creatively. If we’re not getting their attention, we’re not doing our job.”

Angela Nelson ( @bostonangela ) is an exhausted mom of two young daughters and two old cats, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning digital editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and information to audiences worldwide.