Protecting Young People from Sextortion: A Guide for Parents and Safeguarding Professionals

what_is_sextortion

Type of Resource

Article/ Blog

Publication Date

August 17, 2023

Topic/s

Online Blackmail/ Online Grooming/ Sharing nudes and semi-nudes

What is Sextortion?

In today’s digital age, young people are increasingly vulnerable to online threats, and one such menace is sextortion. Sextortion is a cyber-enabled crime that exploits a young person’s trust and seeks to control them through the threat of public humiliation. It can happen to anyone, but it is particularly prevalent among teenagers and young adults.
Over 60,000 reports were made in 2022 relating to imagery of children aged 7-10 who had been groomed, coerced or tricked into performing sexually on camera by an online predator.

Source: IWF

Shockingly, this is a 1058% increase since the pandemic. It is therefore crucial for parents and safeguarding professionals to understand this crime and take steps to protect young people from falling victim to it.
Sextortion is a form of online exploitation where perpetrators, often using a false identity, manipulate and coerce young people into sharing intimate images or engaging in sexual acts on camera. After the explicit imagery is captured by the sexual predator, it is used to blackmail the young person into sending more images, money, or in some cases, into recruiting more victims.

What is Sextortion?

Sextortion typically begins with an innocent online connection. A young person may encounter someone on a social media platform, a dating app, or even a gaming platform like Roblox. They bond over shared interests, and the online friendship becomes a regular interaction.

As the conversation progresses, it takes an unexpected turn towards sexual topics, initiated by the other person. The young person may feel confused or even apprehensive, but not suspect any malicious intent. In some cases, they may share explicit photos or engage in intimate acts on camera, unaware of the digital trap being set.

Unbeknownst to them, the perpetrator captures and saves their private moments. This gives the offender leverage to manipulate and control the young person. They threaten to expose the explicit content unless their demands for money, more images or victims are met. The threat of exposure can seem extremely real when the perpetrator goes to the lengths of searching through the young person’s social media platforms to find their close friends and family members’ accounts.

The sudden realisation of being trapped in a sextortion scheme induces panic and a range of negative emotions in the young person. They may feel violated, afraid, and embarrassed. Sadly, in some cases, the psychological impact can lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

It is crucial for parents, carers, and safeguarding professionals to be aware of the signs of sextortion and take proactive measures to protect young people.

How Can Parents and Safeguarding Professionals Help?

By understanding the risks and taking proactive measures, parents and safeguarding professionals can create a safer online environment for young people. Here are some steps you can take:
Start by educating yourself about sextortion, its tactics, and the impact it can have on young people. Stay informed about the latest trends and techniques used by perpetrators. This knowledge will empower you to recognise the signs and respond effectively.
Maintain open lines of communication with young people in your care. Create a safe and non-judgmental space where they feel comfortable discussing their online experiences. Encourage them to share any concerns or incidents they encounter.
“Most young people do not see ‘sexting’ as a problem and are reluctant to talk to adults about it because they are afraid of being judged or having their phones taken away”. – Source:fostering.nottinghamshire.gov.uk
Teach young people about online safety and the potential risks they may encounter. Discuss the importance of privacy settings, the risks of sharing personal information with others or on their profiles, and the consequences of engaging in explicit activities online.
Set clear boundaries regarding online conversations. Discuss the importance of consent and help young people understand what is appropriate and what crosses the line. Encourage them to trust their instincts and report any suspicious or uncomfortable interactions.
Update the privacy settings on all social media accounts so that only people your young person knows can view their account. Be mindful of who they invite or accept as a friend or follower and do not accept requests from complete strangers.
If you or your young person come across any suspicious activities or individuals online, report them to the relevant authorities or the platform’s support team. By reporting such incidents, you contribute to the overall safety of the online community.
Sextortion is a serious online crime that poses a significant threat to young people. The experience can leave young people feeling violated, afraid, embarrassed, and alone. However, it is important to remind them that they are not alone, and they are not at fault. Help and support are always available.

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