The COVID-19 pandemic will forever be remembered for impacting the lives of every person on the planet. And while we are struggling to save our businesses, secure our jobs and support those around us, it is easy to lose track of our children that had no choice but to engage almost constantly with a harsh online world, traffickers lurking around every corner. And whilst most parents try to enforce some control over screen time and the use of internet filtering software, few are aware of the dangerous terrain that their children are now navigating.
If you are thinking, “not my child”, then this article is for you.
The pandemic has seen a radical increase in the number of sextortion cases worldwide. For example, a recent report authored by Cybertip.ca, Canada's national child sexual abuse and exploitation tipline, reports a 62% increase in sextortion cases in 6 months, with teen boys aged 15-17 being the prime targets. (1)
So what is Sextortion?
Sextortion refers to the practice of forcing someone to perform sexual acts by threatening to reveal sensitive information about their sexual activity or to harm them.
For teenagers, it often starts with a friend request on social media. Online traffickers create fake profiles, pretending to be the same age or a little bit older than the teen and taking a romantic interest in him/her. This might come exactly at the time that your teenage son is exploring his sexuality, trying to find answers online for questions that he wouldn’t dare to ask you! Or your teenage daughter who cannot wait for a handsome older boyfriend to whisk her off her feet.
Within a very short time, the perpetrator will build a trust relationship with the child and extract sensitive information such