The FBI is reporting a significant increase in activity involving sextortion, a federal crime where an adult coerces a child to send them sexually explicit photographs over the internet. You’re probably thinking, ‘my child would never send a nude picture of themselves to someone”, but sextortion is happening to kids as young as 8 years old according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children . Anyone with a smartphone is at risk. Now, in isolation, kids are spending more time on their phones and in their bedrooms.
“Even before this happened it was challenging to oversee what your children were doing,” says retired FBI special agent Scott Augenbaum who has gotten many calls from worried parents who’ve discovered their child’s scary secret.
“Had a friend call me up a couple of months ago because he discovered that his 13 year old daughter was taking naked pictures of herself and sending it to a child predator online.” Augenbaum went on to say the young girl thought she was exchanging photos with someone her own age. Instead, it was an older man pretending to be a kid. According to the NCMEC, the ages of victims usually ranges from 8-17 years old.
Here’s how these scumbags work:
They strike up a conversation with a kid on a social media site. Instagram, Snapchat, Kik. Two years ago sex predators were using the popular coloring book app “ReColor” to approach children in the comments section. The kid agrees to swap risqué or explicit photos of themselves. When the perp gets the photo, they ask for more. If the child refuses, the predator says they’ll share the photos they already have with the child’s family and friends. They might ask for “just one more”. But they won’t stop. Some victims report getting messages demanding photos every day. The kid is embarrassed, scared and might continue to share photos of themselves. Augenbaum warns the perps are skilled at what they do, and know just what to say to start the conversations.
The child predators are generally looking to acquire more sexual content of the child which often includes video. Some extort money and many times the perpetrator tries to entice the child to meet them in person.
“The child predators are out there looking to exploit our children. They’re looking to befriend our children, gain our children’s trust and then they’re going to introduce them to explicit images and try to get them to provide the same.”
Talk to your children, no matter how young and innocent they are. Check their phones and report any activity like this to local authorities or the FBI. The agency advises parents to contact the nearest FBI field office or call 1-800-CALL-FBI. You can also report an incident to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by visiting www.report.cybertip.org