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Sextortion Surge: Safeguarding Children

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

teenage boy playing a video game on a computer. Teen boys are becoming victims of sextortion.Authorities have seen a sharp increase in incidents of sextortion. In this form of child exploitation, perpetrators obtain a nude photo/video, usually through online deception, and then blackmail the child, demanding additional compromising images, sexual activity or money. The number of reported cases between 2019 and 2021 more than doubled, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Teenage boys have become prime targets.

During National Internet Safety Month, parents are reminded to have ongoing conversations with their children about how to protect themselves online:

  • Teach children how to safeguard their personal information and avoid sharing their full name, address, school and other identifiers with strangers.
  • Alert them to imposters who pose online as peers to try to gain personal information to exploit them.
  • Set house rules on internet use, including limits on how much online time they can have each day and what sites they may visit.
  • Regularly monitor children’s online activities and use parental control apps that can limit children’s access to inappropriate content.
  • Urge your child to tell you about any suspicious online interactions.
  • Remind children never to share images of themselves with a “friend” they only “know” online. Nor should children request images of another person online.
  • Encourage children to think critically about information they encounter online and help them differential between reliable sources and content intended to mislead them.
  • Discuss the permanence of their online activity. Any inappropriate comments or photos they post can affect their personal and professional lives in the future.
  • Emphasize the importance of using strong passwords for all online accounts, and to never share passwords with anyone but their parents/guardians.

NCMEC created NetSmartz, an educational program that helps to empower children to make safer choices online through animated videos, classroom-based lesson plans, and activities.

According to the NCMEC, sexploitation perpetrators commonly:

  • Use social media to find out about a child’s friends, interest, school etc… before approaching them online.
  • Ask for naked photos of the child soon after becoming friends on social media.
  • Seek to move the conversation with the child from one online platform to another.
  • Pose as a peer and offer to provide a nude of themselves.
  • Pretend to work for a modeling/talent agency in order to get a nude photo.
  • Threaten to create sexual images or videos of the child using digital-editing tools.

Being the victim of sextortion can be traumatic. Know that the predator, not your child or you, is to blame. Here are ways to help your child recover:

  • Listen to your child without judgement.
  • Report the incident to NCMEC’s CyberTipline online, or by phone at 1-800-843-5678. Another option is to contact your local FBI field office (call 1-800-CALL-FBI).
  • Block the perpetrator but DO NOT DELETE the profile or messages because that is evidence of the crime.
  • Use resources to remove explicit images from the internet. Get help from NCMEC here.
  • Seek professional counseling if needed for you and your family. Contact NewBridge Services for individual and family counseling at services@newbridge.org or (973) 316-9333.

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