LiveSmart: Sextortion – Keeping Our Kids Safe in the Digital Age

[Written by Ali Catalfamo, MHC-LP, Mental Health Counselor and Victim Advocate, and Elizabeth Karam, NYSCRCC, Outreach Coordinator, St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services.]


“Send me another photo, or I’ll release the ones you’ve sent before.”

“If you don’t send this, I’ll hack into your phone and send the photos to your family.”

“Transfer me $500 and I’ll delete all the photos I have of you.”


What do all these concerning messages have in common? They are all forms of sextortion.

Sextortion is a type of child sexual exploitation where children and teens are threatened or blackmailed by a person demanding sexual images, sexual activity, or money. Among children and teens, this is an alarmingly common experience. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports cases of sextortion have increased 323% since 2021.

Sextortion can begin on any app, website, platform, or game where people can meet and communicate with one another. With the rise of social media use among children and teens, apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok can all be used for sextortion. In many cases, children are targeted by someone they have only ever met online.

Red flags for online profiles can include having little-to-no photos, a low number of followers, and misspellings. Sextortion can be a highly traumatic experience for people affected by this behavior and their loved ones – many teens often blame themselves and don’t seek help, facing the abuse on their own.

If you or a loved one find yourself in a situation that feels like sextortion, here are some strategies to keep in mind:

  • Stop all contact with the individual.
  • Report the profile using the platform’s safety feature.
  • Talk with someone you trust.
  • Do not send any money – cooperating or paying rarely stops the blackmail.
  • Report to your local law enforcement agency or the National Cyber Tipline at
  • Use the Take it Down service,, which helps remove sexually explicit images of minors from the internet.
  • Remember that it is not your fault or your child’s fault. Sextortion is a crime and you are never to blame.

Dealing with sextortion in this digital age can be an overwhelming experience, but you and your child do not have to deal with this alone. St. Peter’s Health Partners’ Crime Victim Services provides local, free, and confidential support services to youth impacted by sextortion and their loved ones. For more information about Crime Victim Services, please call 518-271-3410 or visit our website at

If you or someone you know has been the victim/survivor of a crime and needs to speak with someone outside of business hours, you can contact our 24-hour confidential hotline at 518-271-3257.

To learn more about sextortion, you can check out resources from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at and the Federal Bureau of Investigation at

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