Sextortion involves individuals who coerce youth into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual acts via camera-enabled devices and then blackmail them with the threat of distributing the sexual images/videos if they do not pay money or provide more sexual images/videos. The use of live-streaming services has increased the vulnerability of youth to this type of exploitation because youth can be recorded without their knowledge and then blackmailed with the threat of distributing the recorded content.
Teens’ brains are wired for social interaction and bonding with others. Their need for acceptance and belonging strongly drives their decisions. Puberty increases experimentation, sexual curiosity and sexual arousal. These hallmarks of adolescence increase the vulnerability of teens towards sexual exploitation.
Online conversations that may initially appear as friendly banter can easily progress to sexual conversations. Understandably, teens may feel intrigued and flattered by these conversations and continue to engage thinking it’s harmless. In other instances, the young person may really believe that they are in a relationship with the person they are communicating with online. Messaging and live-streaming services are commonly introduced for the purpose of receiving non-sexual pictures, but can progress to sending nude or partially nude pictures, and possibly sexually explicit content. This content may later be used to blackmail or extort the teen.
Have conversations with teens about the risks associated with using technology to experiment sexually and the potential risk of blackmail/extortion. Conversations with teens are necessary as:
“I was just reading about a 15-year-old being threatened online to send money and if he didn’t, sexual pictures of him would be sent to all of his friends. I guess he thought he was talking to a 15-year-old girl and, in fun, exposed himself to her on video chat. A couple days later, the boy got a message from a man who had been pretending to be the 15-year-old girl. The man threatened the boy, telling him he had to pay $250 within the next two days or the man would send the sexual pictures of the boy to all his friends on Facebook and Instagram. The police got involved and discovered that the man was also blackmailing 20 other youth, some of who had sent money to this guy.”
Talk about options for getting out of difficult situations such as not responding and blocking all contact.
Acknowledge that while this may be a difficult step to take, their safety is your number one priority. Emphasize that it’s never too late to come to you for help.
Extortion is when, without reasonable justification or excuse and in order to get another person to do something or cause anything to be done, a person:
Steps to take if you are dealing with extortion online:
The tips and other information provided herein is intended as general information only, not as advice. Readers should assess all information in light of their own circumstances, the age and maturity level of the child(ren) they wish to protect and any other relevant factors.