CHILDLINE: Huge increase in ‘sextortion’ reports over first six months of 2023
In recent months, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) announced it had received more reports of ‘sextortion’ in the first six months of 2023 than in the whole of 2022, with boys in their late teens targeted most often.
‘Sextortion’ in this context describes cases of children and young people who have been tricked into sharing sexual images of themselves by abusers who then extort money or further imagery from them.
Here at Childline, we have also seen a huge increase in the number of young people contacting us about the issue.
In 2022-23, there were 844 mentions within Childline counselling sessions where a child discussed blackmail or threats to expose or share sexual images. This was an increase of 61% compared to the previous year.
One boy, aged 17, told our counsellors: “I am a victim of an extortionist and keep on receiving emails and messages from the same person threatening to share a nude video of me online unless I pay him money.
“I get so scared every time I receive a notification on my phone ‘cos I worry this will be the day my nudes get posted.”
The NSPCC together with the IWF developed a special tool called Report Remove to support young people who have had a nude image or video of themselves published online.
Anyone under 18 can use this tool to report an image or video shared online, to see if it’s possible to get it taken down. Once reported, the IWF reviews the content and then works to have it removed if it breaks the law.
The circumstances in which a young person may share a self-generated sexual image can include grooming, blackmail, peer pressure or sharing with a boyfriend or girlfriend who they trust.
Whatever the reason, Report Remove can help young people regain control over what is happening.
Nobody needs to deal with this alone, and Childline is available around the clock to support children and young people who have found themselves in such situations.