Security specialists warn parents of rise in sextortion of boy children

Security specialists warn parents of rise in sextortion of boy children. Picture:

Security specialists warn parents of rise in sextortion of boy children. Picture:

Published Feb 17, 2024


With studies showing that 1 in 20 adolescents have experienced the harrowing trauma of sextortion in their lifetime, security specialists have warned parents about the importance of educating children about online safety, especially young boys.

Sexual extortion, or sextortion, is when an individual is coerced into providing money or sexual images through a threat to release sexual or nude photographs or videos online.

Research has shown that more than half of the 9- to 17-year-olds in South Africa have seen sexual images on a phone or online device in the past year.

About 8% admitted to taking naked photos or videos of themselves, while two-thirds of them indicated that they had even gone as far as risking sharing them.

Security and crime experts said in their line of work they come across up to 15 cases of sextortion a day involving children, hence the plea for parents to remain vigilant when allowing their children to interact on social media platforms.

Specialised Security Services head Mike Bolhuis said many sextortion cases occurred within existing relationships with peers, romantic partners or adults, however, in some cases, predators were unknown to the children.

Bolhuis said predators often groomed children into sharing intimate pictures or videos, only to use them for blackmail later.

He said through their work they found that one quarter of youths who reported being sextorted also reported being threatened with having their pictures publicly posted or sent to others without their consent.

“When children and adolescents are targets of sextortion, they may experience intense fear and shame in speaking with their parents and caregivers about what has happened. As a result of this, they may be less aware of resources or support they can turn to for help,” he said.

Bolhuis said even though young girls were less likely to fall victim to sextortion, they did, however, experience physical and sexual assault more often.

The security specialists stressed that boys were more likely to experience sextortion as they mistakenly believed that they were engaging in a mutual exchange of sexual images.

Often, he said this exchange resulted in them being extorted for financial gain, especially given that boys were less likely to disclose the victimisation to parents or other trusted adults.

“Society’s expectations of boys as strong and courageous challenges their sense of worth, and the feelings of shame and guilt seem like a stigma to young boys. Parents should not underestimate the age at which children could become vulnerable as many victims are as young as eight years old.”

“We advise parents to have a conversation with their children about sex, consent to online activities and safety, early and often. They just need to vary the content based on the child’s age and developmental stage,” Bolhuis pleaded.

Saturday Star

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