Police in Cumbria are seeing a concerning trend of sextortion cases involving teenage victims – and are asking parents to talk to children about their digital lives.
Officers are also urging anyone who finds themselves facing demands or blackmail after sharing images or videos to stop contact with the perpetrator straight away – and alert police.
Sextortion happens when an individual makes contact via social media or a messaging platform and builds up a rapport with the victim.
With young people, the perpetrator often makes them believe they are of a similar age to them.
The conversation will then become sexualised and the perpetrator will request sexual images or videos.
They will then blackmail the victim by threatening to share the images or videos with family or friends, unless they do something in return, such as pay them.
They may also ask for further images rather than payment.
Police are seeing cases being reported every month, with a number of victims being boys aged between 13 and 17.
What should you do if you or your child has been the victim of sextortion?
- Report the matter to police as soon as possible.
- Don’t pay any money or agree to other demands, such as providing further images.
- Keep all communications and record any evidence as soon as possible via screen capture.
- Do not communicate with the perpetrator any further.
- Report and log the issue with the relevant social media platform. Most firms have procedures to report abuse on their sites.
Detective Inspector Fiona Gray, of Cumbria Constabulary’s Cyber and Digital Crime Unit has the following advice for parents.
“I would urge all parents to have regular open and honest discussions with their children about their digital lives,” she said.
“These conversations should be as normalised as those about drugs and road safety.
“Having an open channel of communication will prevent victimisation and enable young people to seek support and advice at an early stage if they find themselves in a difficult situation.
“This can be especially relevant at this time of year, when some young people may be receiving new devices or digital devices for the first time. It can be a good opportunity for a discussion around boundaries and the risks out there.”
Where to go for further advice:
Further information on how to approach online safety with young people can be found on the Government’s Stop Abuse Together Website: Let’s stop abuse together – Speak to your child
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) website also contains a wealth of information around online safety. Read more here: CEOP Safety Centre