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Sextortion

Sextortion

To better understand

Many parents worry about their teen’s safety on the Internet. While digital technology has many benefits for young people, it’s not completely risk-free. Unfortunately, some people use the Internet to perpetrate crimes against teenagers. Sextortion, a form of sexual blackmail, is one such crime.

According to Canada’s National Tipline for Reporting the Online Sexual Exploitation of Children, sextortion is when someone threatens to send a sexual image or video of the person to other people if they don’t pay them or provide more sexual content. Sextortionists use several methods to acquire these sexual images or videos. Sexually explicit content may be sent willingly or unwillingly by teenagers, or it may be obtained without their knowledge, in particular during webcam chats. While the sextortion cases reported in the media are often perpetrated by strangers, a teenager might also know the individual who is sextorting them.

Sextortion can affect all teenagers, regardless of their gender, sex, sexual orientation or ethnocultural background. Teens who have fallen victim to sextortion may feel guilty or ashamed, even though it’s not their fault. Many won’t ask for help because they’re afraid of being judged. Some teens may also witness or commit sextortion themselves. Several steps can be taken to prevent and combat this issue. And as a parent, you have a major role to play!

Sextortion and teens

Cybertip.ca reports a 150% increase in sextortion incidents involving teenagers between December 2021 and May 2022.

What should you do if you’re being sextorted?

  • Don’t give in to the blackmail and threats.
  • Cut off all communication with the sextortionist.
  • Shut down the accounts where the sextortion is taking place but keep a record of the conversations.
  • Talk to a trusted adult and report the situation to police.

Visit the NeedHelpNow and Cybertip websites for more information.

To better support

Communication

  • Talk to your teenager about sextortion and the different ways sextortionists trick their victims.
  • Tell your teenager not to accept video calls from strangers. If your teen answers by mistake, tell them to hang up immediately.
  • Tell your teen they should keep their camera turned off when live streaming, and only turn it on once they’ve confirmed the other person’s identity.
  • Talk to your teen about the characteristics of a healthy, equal relationship and the different types of abuse. It’s never okay to blackmail or manipulate another person, whether online or offline.
  • Talk to your teen about the risks related to digital technology, how to reduce them, and what to do if they fall victim to sextortion.
  • Remind your teen of the importance of asking for help when needed.

Supervision/Guidance

  • Find out what apps your teen is using and take an interest in their online activities. Ask questions about their online activities while still being mindful of their privacy.
  • Activate privacy settings on their devices and tell them to use a webcam cover.
  • Tell your teen about the potential consequences of sharing personal information online, whether sexual or not (we also encourage you to read our information sheet on sexting).

Support

  • Explore the online world with your teen and tell them about ways to be safer online.
  • Support your teen as they learn about and assert their limits.
  • If your teen is the victim of sextortion, be willing to hear them out without judging. Thank your teen for confiding in you and take action immediately. Also, make sure they get the help they need.
  • If your teen is sextorting someone, you need to deal with it as quickly as possible. Calmly let them know about the harm they’re causing and explain the legal consequences of their actions. Talk to your teen about how to make amends to their victim. Tell them that sextortion is unacceptable, and don’t hesitate to seek outside help.

At home

  • Respect your teen’s boundaries and encourage them to speak up at This will help them to develop personal and social skills transferrable to the online world.
  • Create a climate of trust at home. If your teen is having a hard time, they’ll be more likely to confide in you and ask for help if needed.

Tips and tricks

  • Talk to your teen about the sextortion cases you see in the media. Discuss ways to make their online activities safer. Talk about what they should do if sextortion happens and where to turn for help. Remind them that you’re there if they need you and that you won’t judge if it happens to them.
  • To kickstart the conversation, you can also look at the sextortion awareness tool for teens together (see DontGetSextorted.ca : send a naked mole rat)

In brief

  • Unfortunately, because they’re young and more vulnerable, teenagers are more likely to fall victim to sextortion. But there are some things you can do to protect teens online.
  • By helping your teen to explore the online world and stand up for themselves, you’re giving them the tools to prevent sextortion. It’s also important to talk about what makes for a healthy, equal relationship and the potential consequences of sharing personal information.
  • In the event of sextortion, step in quickly and always remember: The only people to blame for the sextortion are the perpetrators. If your teen falls victim to sextortion, treat them with kindness and compassion and offer your support.

Resources and practical tools

1. For support:

Do you have concerns about your teen’s development or behaviour? Do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a healthcare professional:

Info-Santé/Info-Social 811, 24/7 service

Community organizations: family centre, youth centre, etc.

Some community organizations offer support programs for parents of teenagers. Call your local organization for information.

School staff members are also good allies

If you fear for your teen’s or your own safety, call 911 or your local police department. 

Latest updates: december 2022

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