Talk to your kids about sextortion
THIS IS HARD, BUT YOU’RE ALREADY DOING GREAT BY BEING HERE.
Your children are safer because of your support and guidance through all of life’s challenges. Safety in the digital age is new, and chances are your children feel more comfortable navigating digital communities than you do, while knowing less than they need to stay safe. There are a few things you can do to help your child avoid getting into tricky, and sometimes dangerous, situations like sextortion.
Your Next Steps
Talk about it with your children, then talk about it with your friends
Be there unconditionally.
Kids experiencing sextortion are so scared of getting in trouble. They’re worried about shaming their parents, that they’ll get suspended from school, judged by friends or in trouble with the police. These fears can even be suggested by the abuser to maintain control over them, and sadly these things do happen. These fears keep kids silent, and that has led to terrible tragedies.
Your fear and frustration is normal, but they need to know you’ll always get through tough situations together. Even if you think they know you’ll support them, having these conversations can make a big difference in them sharing their experiences with you when something feels off or goes wrong.
Tech companies can help remove images and in some cases remove the threats. You can report both the people threatening you, their threats, and the images if they’ve been shared. This removal guide has steps to make reports on many major platforms.
My mom told me it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it did happen and we would get through it.
Mention if age is under 18.
If the person targeted by sextortion is under 18, encourage them to say that they are under 18 (even if their profile has a different age). It helps companies to know that they are legally still a minor and to take more aggressive action. Also, if they are a minor in the images, you can report the images to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They work hard to keep young people safe, and will make the report available to law enforcement.
Consider involving the police.
Some victims told us that police resolved the situation, but you should know that if police get involved, the target of sextortion could face some consequences too. It’s illegal to share sexual images of minors even if they are of themselves. Most of the time, we recommend learning more about available options.
Block the blackmailer, but do not delete profile or messages. This probably feels like the opposite of what you were thinking, but keep everything that is being said to the victim and that the victim has said. This will help show someone what happened instead of just relying on memory. Save texts, pictures, videos, websites, etc. You can take screenshots and save web pages as PDFs. Save everything just in case and change account passwords.
If you need help text "Thorn" to 741741
A trained Crisis Text Line counselor will be there to support you anonymously.
Teaching kids to stay safe
Talk to your kids about online safety.
Talk to your child without judgment through conversations centered around trust, consent, and what to do if someone asks for a photo of them or threatens them. Check out this discussion guide to get started.
Here are some conversation starters:
Has anyone ever sent you a sexual picture or sext?
[You can probably just say sext if you’re comfortable.]
Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to send a sexual picture or sext?
[Explain that somebody trying to pressure them into sending intimate images isn’t somebody they should trust.]
Do you think it is okay to forward sexual or embarrassing images? Why?
[Emphasize the importance of not forwarding these images. It could be really hurtful for the person in the image, and your child could get in trouble for forwarding. Plus, nobody has the right to decide who should see someone else’s body.]
Tell them: don’t forward pics.
1 in 5 kids 9-17 say they have seen nudes that were shared non-consensually. Talk with your kids about what it means to share nude photos of someone else, and remind them not to forward these images. These may be considered child sexual abuse material (legally known as child pornography), and there can be both legal and personal consequences if they do. Encourage them to not participate in this behavior empower them to call it out when they see it.
Reaching out is the best thing you can do. The people around you want what is the best for you. They may be angry at first, but at the end, they will not love you any less… They might even gain some respect for your courage.
Understand the issue.
Learning about how sextortion happens and what to do to protect your child is an important step in preventing it from happening in the first place.
Understand how it's perpetrated.
Knowing what sextortion looks like can help you determine if your child is a target. Being equipped with knowledge ahead of time will help you resist panicking in the moment and give you the tools you need to help them through it.
Advocate for change.
We can all take small steps to push for a better future for our kids. Ask school officials if there are policies in place to address sextortion. If you want to go bigger, learn more about the revenge porn laws in your state. In many cases, these laws will cover sextortion as well. Don’t see your state? Call your lawmaker and ask them to consider legislation. Follow these instructions to make a call today.
Share the cat video.
Did this video make you laugh, but also teach you about something serious? Share it with your kids to start the conversation and encourage them to be as informed as you are about sextortion and how it happens.
Keeping up with the fast-paced changes in today’s technology is hard. The more you talk about this with your child about their digital world, the easier it will be to understand if something bad is happening, and the easier it will be for them to share uncomfortable situations with you. You can get started here.
Spread the word.
By educating each other, we create a stronger safety net for all of our children. Share our video with your kids and your friends. The more people know about some of the ways sextortion happens, the better equipped they’ll be to handle these situations. You can also bring FOSI’s “How To Be A Good Digital Parent” Program to your school and teach other parents how to confidently navigate the web with their kids [full toolkit provided].
For Your Friends