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Study Reveals Sextortion As A Fast Growing Online Threat To Teenagers

Sextortion is a growing problem and usually involves the blackmail or coercion of internet users with the intention of extorting further sexually explicit images, money or some kind of sexual favour from those targeted. If you need help for sextorion or any other kind of online blackmail, follow the links to our various support services throughout this article.

A new study has revealed that large numbers of teenagers are experiencing sextortion as a form of cyberbullying. Sextortion occurs when a target voluntarily shares intimate images, and is then threatened with the release or distribution of the images unless demands are met, these demands can often be of a sexual nature.

According to the United States Department of Justice sextortion is labeled as the most important and fastest-growing cyber threat to children, with more minor victims per offender than all other child sexual exploitation offenses.

“This study highlights how young people are increasingly at risk of being drawn into dangerous activities online.”

Dan Raisbeck, Co-Founder, The Cybersmile Foundation

The study, led by Dr Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, surveyed 5,500 students age 12 to 17 and found that 5% had experienced sextortion. Although a small percentage, this figure represents a significant proportion of youth when extrapolated to national or international teen populations. More worryingly, the study also reveled that many underage teenagers were reluctant to report incidents, with boys being far less likely to report incidents than girls.

“Young people are put in a difficult situation because technically speaking, if a 15 or 16 year old shares an explicit image with somebody else, they have broken a law and so that person that they shared the image with has a lot of power over them. We need to provide opportunities for young people to come forward who make mistakes but still need help dealing with these situations.”

Dr Justin W. Patchin Ph.D

Co-author, Dr. Sameer Hinduja, who serves as Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, and Dr Patchin, advise young Internet users to continue to be cautious when it comes to how much trust they extend to others. They also suggest that parents and other adults who work with teens should encourage a culture of skepticism about the sharing of sexual content online.

“Youth may fall prey to victimization more readily than adults because of the naiveté that stems from a simple lack of experience in the ways of life and love.”

Dr. Sameer Hinduja

 If you or any member of your family are being sextorted we can help. Visit our Cyberbullying and Online Abuse Help Center or learn more about our Total Access Support and how we can help you with your particular problem. For further information about Cybersmile and the work we do, please explore the following suggestions:

What are your thoughts about sextortion and the findings of this survey? Let us know by contacting us or tweet us @CybersmileHQ.