Oregon students are back in class now, and many of them are carrying cellphones in their pockets. Laptops, tablets, and gaming systems are in the daily mix, too. Each of these platforms represents a growing and pervasive influence in the lives of children. Much of the time, these devices serve an important purpose. Sometimes, though, they become a virtual gateway for real-life consequences.
With the start of the school year, the FBI is launching its #StopSextortion education campaign to help families and schools understand more about the growing problem of sextortion and how to protect young students from these predators. Oregon educators are welcome to request a packet of campaign materials, including posters and other resources. Those requests can be made to the Oregon FBI at[email protected].
What is Sextortion?
The FBI is seeing more and more cases involving sextortion, particularly of young kids, sometimes as young as seven or eight years old. The extortionist finds children and teens on social media, through gaming apps or through other online platforms. He will either find victims who respond to attention from an adult, or he will pretend to be another child. Either way, he will groom the victim, using flattery or gifts. Eventually, he convinces the child to send a naked photo — and one is all it takes. If the child tries to pull away, the extortionist will threaten the victim with exposure, telling the child that he will send the photo to friends and family or post online. Over time, the extortionist continues to threaten while escalating demands, which can include the production of more explicit photos. He may even command that the child perform sex acts alone or with siblings and friends.
For too many parents, the thought is that it can’t happen to my child, and it can’t happen here. Unfortunately, FBI officials said it can, on both counts. So what can parents do to protect their children?
Often children and teens are so concerned that they will get in trouble or lose their devices that they are reluctant to come forward. It’s up to the parent to develop an open, honest line of communication. Start with some short conversations, and ask:
Finally, consider using what you’ve just learned to start the conversation. “Hey, I heard this story on the news today about kids getting pressured to send pictures and videos of themselves to people online. Have you heard anything like that before?”
What to do if sextortion has already taken place:
Students, parents and educators can find more tools and information on the FBI's website at .www.fbi.gov/stopsextortion