Summer vacation is almost here for school-age children, which means that kids will have more free time to roam the Internet. Unfortunately, according to the FBI, this means that the threat of online predators is high and the FBI is warning parents that it has seen an increase—a whopping 60% increase—in the number of sextortion cases that involve minors over the past five years.
Sextortion occurs “when an adult coerces or entices a child to a minor kid under 18 to produce a sexually explicit image of themselves and then transmit that image to them on the Internet,” the Assistant Section Chief of the FBI’s Criminal Division states in an interview with ABC News. In one case, a male predator set up a fake Facebook profile as a female modeling agent, luring under-age girls to respond by saying there were modeling jobs available that could earn them between $500 and $5000 per photo shoot. The impostor set up a line of communication, then asked the girls to send photos or videos of themselves in sexually suggestive positions. When the predator received the photos, he would then threaten to post them online or hurt the victim if he didn’t receive more photos. (https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdil/pr/texas-man-pleads-guilty-sextorting-minors-illinois)
The fallout from sextortion can be devastating to the victim—including shame, humiliation, depression, anxiety and fear. These predators are preying on vulnerable minors and the results can be tragic.
The FBI suggests that parents limit the screen time of their children, talk with them, and monitor with whom they are conversing online. It says that important messages to young people about online behavior are simple ones to discuss with your children. Children need to know and be reminded that:
- Many people online are not who they say they are.
- Don’t talk online to people you don’t know.
- Understand that any content produced on a web-enabled device can be made public.
- If you are being threatened or coerced online, tell someone. There is help and there is hope.
To report suspected sextortion, call the nearest FBI field office or 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324). To make a CyberTipline Report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), visit report.cybertip.org.