I frequently blog about cyberbullying and most parents now have a pretty good understanding of that threat. But when I mention “sextortion” they have no idea what I’m talking about. No, this is not some new sex position to try out. This is the latest very real and growing threat to our kids online.
Sextortion is a form of online sexual exploitation in which non-physical forms of coercion are utilized, such as blackmail, to acquire sexual content (photos/videos) of the child, obtain money from the child or engage in sex with the child.
Unlike situations where a teen chooses to send nude pictures of her/himself to a boyfriend or a girlfriend, in these instances the victim send pics out of fear that the perpetrator will harm a member of the family or has embarrassing information that he threatens to reveal. Unfortunately, once the photos are sent, the victim is trapped in a cycle of abuse and blackmail.
Usually the victim is a girl (78% of the time) between the ages of 8 and 17. Yes, I said 8!!!! And oftentimes the perpetrator is targeting numerous girls.
The Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, has released a series of PSA’s that show how a teen was blackmailed into sending more and more explicit images and video to someone online who she thought she knew.
While this might be an uncomfortable topic to bring up with your child it’s important. Too often I hear parents say that since their child doesn’t know about sex or would never post a photo of herself it’s not worth discussing. WRONG!!!!! Even if your daughter doesn’t have a SnapChat, Instagram, Kik, YikYak or some other social media account chances are one of her friends does. Does she have a phone? Does she know how to text? Then the possibility exists of her being a victim of sextortion.
As per the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, here are several ways in which sextortion can occur:
- Threatening to post previously acquired sexual content online (71%); and
- Threatening to post previously acquired sexual content online specifically for family and friends to see (29%).
- Some other tactics include:
- Reciprocation, whereby the offender coerced the child into providing sexual content by promising reciprocity
- Developing a bond with the child through flattery and praise
- Secretly recording sexually explicit videos of the child during video chats
- Using multiple online identities against a given child, such as being the person blackmailing for sexual content as well as pretending to be a supportive friend to the child or a sympathetic victim of the same offender
- Pretending to be younger and/or a female
- Threatening to physically hurt or sexually assault the child or their family
- Threatening to create sexual content of the child using digital-editing tools
- Accessing the child’s account without authorization and stealing sexual content of the child
- Threatening to commit suicide if the child does not provide sexual content
- Creating a fake profile as the child and posting sexual content of the child
- Pretending to be a modeling agent to obtain sexual content of the child
- Threatening to post sexually explicit conversations with the child online
Be sure that you are constantly monitoring your child’s social media accounts and texts. Install monitoring software to receive alerts for select content or images. Watch for changes in your child’s behavior and talk to her friends – chances are if there’s a problem they know about it.
If you find text threads or posts, do not delete them! Immediately contact law enforcement.