Unfortunately, our children are at risk from online predators in many different ways. Sextortion is a criminal act and horrible nightmare to victims and their families. Learning what sextortion is and understanding how it could happen are the first steps in prevention.
What is sextortion? The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) explains that sextortion occurs when an adult, through threat or manipulation, coerces a minor into producing a sexually explicit image and send it over the Internet.
How would this happen? The perpetrators utilize social media, games, chat and dating apps to capture their victims. The criminals will tell children that they will make them famous or pay them an exorbitant amount of game credits, crypto-currency, cash, or gift cards if they will participate.
Why would my child engage in this act? Sextortion is happening when minors feel most comfortable … when they are on their device, using an app, or playing an online game that is part of their daily routine. The adults that do this crime know that your children might not yet be mature enough to consider the consequences of an action and make decisions like an adult would. Any child with Internet access is at risk. The FBI has interviewed victims as young as 8 and reports that the crime affects all children regardless of gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic groups. The victims have been honor-roll students, children of teachers, and student athletes. The only common trait is that they are all online.
Why don’t victims ask for help? Once the criminal has your child’s single photo or video, they will threaten them with exposure; essentially, coercing your son or daughter to provide them with additional photos or videos and in even more compromising, explicit situations. The criminal knows that fear drives action. … fear of being in trouble by their guardians, of having their device taken away, of being persecuted for pornography, and of feeling massive embarrassment and shame.
What can we do to prevent sextortion? Discuss this topic openly with your children. Let them know that they can tell you anything and you are always there to help them. Communicate that you do not want them to chat with anyone they don’t already know online. Educate them that any photo or video they may take is already public information and not just on their device. Limit their device use. Make sure their social media accounts are kept private. Make them aware that some profiles are not real and that there are adults purposely pretending to be someone else to get them to chat and hurt them. Most importantly, trust your instincts. If something feels not quite right, it probably isn’t.
For more information, visit https://fbi.gov.