Sextortion and Social Media: What Is It and Why Parents Should Care

Sextortion is a term that not many people may have heard of, especially not linked to the Western world. It seems like something in a developing country, where the laws and social expectations are very different. However, it is a major issue as social media develops and grows. It’s important for parents to know all about it, so they can help their children should they become victims.

What Is Cyber Sextortion?

Sextortion is a word formed from two others: sexual exploitation. It involves non-physical coercion, and is very common in the online world; a lot more common than many parents would like to believe. Social media sites, especially Facebook, have opened the door for people to act anonymously and privately. There are also forums and other pages that make cyber sextortion more common.

cyber sextortion

Those who are in positions of power will try to use that power to get sexual favors from victims. Teachers can request favors for good grades, or employers can extort for jobs and promotions. There is also the element of blackmail, where images are used to get a victim to do something.

There have been many young people who have been victims of cyber sextortion, and some of them have gone on to commit suicide because of the negative feelings for the victims. Amanda Todd is just one victim, who at the age of 15 shared a YouTube video to share the details of her troubles shortly before she killed herself.

It is a criminal offense, but catching the perpetrators is proving difficult at time. However, there have been successful convictions. Anthony Stancl received a 15-year prison sentence in 2010, after being caught posting as a high school girl to trick men into sending nude photos of themselves to him. He used the images to extort sexual acts.

The Danger for Children and Teenagers

While suicide is the extreme danger, there are others out there. Children and teenagers are abused through cyber sextortion, which can set up psychological issues in the future. They can suffer from depression and other mental health issues, and it will affect their ability to do well in school and keep a stable job.

There is always the worry that photos will end up online, or bad grades will follow when students refuse to continue. The students worry about speaking to someone else, and allow it to happen thinking that nobody will believe them.

Parents need to know about this issue, and need to know how to deal with it. By knowing more and helping their children, they can prevent some of the dangers and future issues.

What Can Parents Do?

It may seem that as a parent you are helpless, but that is not the case. The most important thing is to give your children a safe space to open up. Look for signs that they are struggling with something privately, and make it clear that you do want to help. Leave the door open for them to trust you with something that they are dealing with.

If you’re really worried about social media, you could keep an eye on their profiles. It is difficult because a lot of the issues happen in private messages and through text messages. Hacking into accounts will just lead to your child or teen not trusting you in the future, even if you have helped them with this.

When the cyber sextortion is from someone the child should trust, you may see a change in behavior. The student may no longer want to be around a certain teacher, or may not discuss a specific class. Look for these warning signs, especially when you see how the student and teacher—for example—interact.

There are times that the sextortion takes place with strangers. This is often due to malware getting into the computer, or due to trusting someone through social media or forums. Check the computer regularly for malware and don’t be afraid to put parental settings on the computer to keep your family safe.

This is a scary subject, and does happen in the Western world. Parents need to keep an eye out for cyber sextortion to keep children and teenagers safe.

Alexandria Ingham

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