The growing sextortion problem
Sextortion is on the rise—here’s how you can help protect your teens
Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, has seen a 62% increase in reports of teens being sextorted over the past six months, with males, ages 15–17, being the biggest target.
What is sextortion and how does it happen?
Sextortion is blackmail; it’s when someone online threatens to send a sexual image or video of you to other people if you don’t pay them or provide more sexual images or videos.
Sextortion usually starts with normal online conversations. If the offender is successful in then moving the youth to a more private platform, the chat and requests quickly turn very personal and sexual. Recently, Cybertip.ca reports have noted it’s common to see initial contact on online platforms such as Omegle™, Snapchat®, or Instagram®, and then the communication moving to Google+ Hangouts® or Skype®, where youth are coerced to undress on camera. Teens are often tricked into doing this by thinking they are talking to a peer. For males, they can be under the impression the person is a female who has a sexual interest in them. Offenders have been known to go as far as using pre-recorded video—for example, a teen girl taking off her clothes—to convince the youth to do the same. The video chats are then screen recorded or screen grabbed, and the resulting images or videos are used to sextort the teen.
Through Cybertip.ca reports it is not uncommon to see the offender request money in exchange for a promise not to post or share the teen’s intimate images or videos online or with others. Monetary demands range from $70 to $700. Typically, the extorter requests use of an online payment provider like PayPal®, but in a few instances, they’ve insisted on Google Play® and Apple® gift cards as payment.
COVID-19 and increased time online for youth because of it has only exacerbated the issue. Sextortion can occur anywhere online and parents/guardians must be vigilant in discussing the risks facing youth online to increase awareness and reduce child victimization.
What can I do if my teen is being sextorted?
Stay calm and report it — Immediately report what has happened to Cybertip.ca or contact police in your jurisdiction. Offenders who engage in sextortion are commonly targeting numerous children.
Immediately have your teen stop all communication — Deactivate (but don’t delete) any of the accounts your teen is using to communicate with the individual.
DO NOT comply with the threat — In other words, never pay money. If your teen has paid money, check to see if it has been collected and, if not, quickly cancel the payment.
Keep the correspondence — Keep information such as the person’s username(s), social media account information, a copy of the communications, along with any images and/or videos that your teen sent.
Messaging to share with teens: How can Cybertip.ca help
Often teens have a hard time telling a safe adult about what’s happening to them online and try to deal with the situation on their own. Cybertip.ca offers youth a place to turn to for support and educational resources to help reduce their risk of victimization.
Safe reporting — If you are being sextorted, there is help! Report what has happened to Cybertip.ca through an online report form (you can remain anonymous if you choose) or via the toll-free number at 1-866-658-9022.
If the situation involves an adult who has or is sharing an intimate image or video of someone under 18, it should be immediately reported to local police or Cybertip.ca.
Help with image removal — If the image or video has been posted online, Cybertip.ca analysts can help to get child sexual abuse material or intimate images of a minor removed from the platform.
They can also help guide you on actions to take to have it removed yourself, if you prefer.
Provide support — Cybertip.ca analysts can provide practical steps to help regain control over the situation, including connecting youth to Canadian Centre for Child Protection (which operates Cybertip.ca) support services who work extensively with teens, schools, and families during instances of sextortion. They can help with everything from emotional support to connecting you with therapy or victim services, if needed.
For more information and resources, visit cybertip.ca/sextortion.