Sextortion Targets Youth Online

FBI Special Agent Brian Herrick defines sextortion and talks about how young people are being manipulated and coerced into creating and sharing sexually explicit content online.


Video Transcript

Sextortion is when an adult coerces or entices a child to produce a sexually explicit image of themselves and send it to them over the internet.

Once the offender gets a single image of a child, typically they'll use that image to coerce the child to produce more and more under threats of sending that image to friends at school, names on a contact list, or even the parents.

Any child can be a victim of this crime, whether they're on the honor roll, whether they're a star athlete, boys or girls. But we have to encourage them to make smart decisions when they're online.

Individuals who are conducting this kind of activity have multiple online profiles. They can pretend to be a 16-year-old boy or girl, they can pretend to be anyone, especially in the online gaming environments where they're offering cheat codes, they’re offering access to coupons or to get further advanced in a game,  

So it's really important to have your guard up to know that if someone was contacting you saying that there's something, there's a good chance they might not be. They’re looking to get access to you, they’re looking to talk to you, and they're trying to encourage you to produce imagery so they can use that imagery to coerce you to produce more.

Many of our victims tell us that they feel there was no way out. They thought they were going to get in trouble. It's really important for victims to understand that they are not in trouble; this is an adult who is in trouble, who is coercing them to do this kind of activity. So it's important to reach out to a trusted adult or to law enforcement so we can end that cycle of victimization.

Gone are the days when we told people to keep the family computer in the living room so that the parents could keep an eye on them. Now with kids with tablets and smartphones, many times they're having to make those really hard decisions when they're not under the watchful eye of their parent. So having those good conversations about what's appropriate behavior is more important now than ever.

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