Online Sextortion and How it May Affect your Kids

Minors, especially young males, have recently been affected by a particular type of extortion called sextortion.

According to an article from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), "Sexual extortion [sextortion] is the use of sexual images to blackmail the person or persons depicted. The blackmail may be for the purpose of obtaining money or more sexually explicit material, coercion into in-person sex or sex trafficking, pressuring the person to stay in a relationship, or other benefits to the perpetrator."

The usual sextortion scheme happens like this: a victim engages with someone online that they think is around their age and/or is romantically interested in them. The perpetrator, who is likely using a fake profile to engage with the victim, coerces the minor to send explicit images and or videos of themselves. The perpetrator then blackmails the victim, threatening to send the images/videos out to family, friends, their school, etc., if they don't give them money or gift cards. Usually, even if the money is sent, the blackmail will continue.

Victims of sextortion are often afraid and embarrassed to speak up because of the nature of the explicit images that they were coerced into sending. The shame and fear of being victimized in this way has resulted in some individuals committing suicide as a way to escape.

“They [Parents] should have a sincere conversation with the minors in their lives about what is appropriate behavior online, and they should report that crime to the FBI if they know about it,” Special Agent Fernando Uribe said in a quote to NBC4 Washington.

In a time where using technology is nearly unavoidable, it is critically important that parents and other adults who have strong influences in the lives of children and teens have regular conversations with them. Talk about the dangers of technology, how to use it wisely and what they should do when they are being asked to do something they do not feel is right. Those parents and other important adults need to be safe places for kids and teens to turn to when they are not sure what else to do.