Should I Be Worried About Sextortion?
The US Department of Justice, along with the FBI and NCMEC, recently issued an alert regarding an alarming increase in the online exploitation of children and teens. Our kids are being abused in our own homes, without our knowledge, because of tech, and we must do something about it.
So what is Sextortion? It’s a term that combines the words “sex” and “extortion”—and it occurs when a child is threatened or blackmailed, usually online, by a person demanding sexual content like photos or videos from the child against their will.
How often does it really happen? Over 3,000 minor victims were targeted in the past year – and those are the ones that were actually reported to law enforcement. Given the access that kids have today – just think about how many kids did not speak up. At Bark we’ve escalated enough predators to law enforcement to know that parents have no idea how often sextortion is happening or the variety of ways in which these predators are communicating with their children online.
How do you talk to your kids about it? First, just start. For younger children, it’s imperative that you discuss the concept of tricky people. Not everyone they connect with online is really a peer or really a nice person. Make sure they know that, and they also know never to disclose P.I.I. (that’s personally identifiable information). Please do not give younger children unfettered access to the internet. Even handing your phone to them for a few unsupervised minutes can expose them to things they will never be able to unsee. For older children, if they know you are a safe place and you won’t freak out when they come to you with something like this, you’ll be better suited to help them if this difficult situation arises.
What should you do if your child is a victim? Remain calm and remember your child is not to blame. You need to document evidence, report the crime to law enforcement and the platforms in which the abuse took place, and you need to make sure your child gets appropriate therapy. Your child's pediatrician can be a helpful resource should you need referrals. There are a great deal of resources located here (including hotlines to call, tip lines for reporting, and videos to watch for education and prevention). Please note, your local ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) unit can be a great source of help in a time like this.
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