Sextortion & Your Child - Part 1
When SGS goes into schools or organizations to speak about social media and how it affects America’s youth, we generally include a section on Sextortion. We have run into questions about what Sextortion is, where Sextortion is prevalent, warning signs of Sextortion, how to avoid Sextortion, and how to combat Sextortion if it happens to your child. We have decided to take this week and next week on our blog to cover Sextortion in more depth to help parents and teens understand the seriousness of the topic.
What Is Sextortion?
Sextortion is the shortened, combination form for “online sexual extortion.” It is closely related to Cyberbullying and is anecdotally related to the phenomenon of Revenge Porn. Sextortion is classified as online abuse, or “remote sexual assault.”
Sextortion is one of the consequences of sexting. Sextortion most often occurs whenever a person posts or sends suggestive or explicit photos or videos of themselves or others through an online medium or a text message (“sext”), and can be accessed by internet-savvy strangers or shared by the recipients. In rare cases, sextortion can also occur because of damning or embarrassing information that a person does not want revealed to other people in their lives.
The extortionist or blackmailer could be an adult, but it could just as easily be another teen or tween who goes to the same school or runs in the same social circles as your child.
At that point, the poster can be threatened with making the content public or having it shown to their families or schools, unless the individual makes more explicit content or does something else that the extorter wants. The extorter could also be demanding sexual favors or money from the person they are blackmailing.
Sextortion is grossly underreported. Teens and tweens are often so scared by these threats that they comply with the extortionist requests, hoping to deal with the issue on their own. Going to their parents is often a last resort. To try to curb this threat to them, have frequent talks about sexting and inappropriate digital behavior and how it can affect them in the long-term. And, of course, we always recommend monitoring their devices because there is definitely a dark side of sharing photos on the internet!
Where Is Sextortion Prevalent?
The number of sextortion cases is growing consistently, according to the FBI. It does not stay contained to one geographical area. However, age does come into play as about 71% of sextortion cases involve victims under the age of 18, according to the Brookings Institution.
Next week, we will be covering more on this topic, including the signs parents should look for, what they can do if they fear their child is in this situation, and what educators can do to help their students.
Smart Girl Society, Inc., is an Omaha-based nonprofit working to educate and inspire smart & confident girls, women, & families. Through educational workshops, civil outreach programs, and technology & social media research, we work with girls, parents, & educators to promote authenticity on social media and in real life. We educate them on how to remain safe on social media and how to avoid becoming a target of sextortion. We also inspire action for students to focus on their personal brand development, leadership, educational opportunities, and healthy social skills. Interested in learning more? Check us out!