Stop sextortion – educators

You play an important role in students’ lives. As new threats emerge, it is important to stay ahead of the trends. Here are a few things you can do to help your students avoid getting into situations like sextortion.

Your next steps: Learn more and talk about it.

Understand the issue.

Sextortion is when a person online threatens to share explicit (naked or sexual) images or video. These demands often include sending money with an app, taking naked or sexual pictures or videos, or other illegal activities. These threats come from different types of people, for example, strangers you meet online, a person pretending to be someone else online, and past romantic or sexual partners.

Some red flags that a message might be sextortion are: the person says “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours”, the person pretends to be from a modeling agency and requests pictures, the person uses photos that have been photoshopped to seem real, the person wants to quickly develop a romantic relationship, or they use multiple (fake) identities to contact you. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s probably because it is.

Decide how you will handle disclosures.

As a trusted adult, students may come to you if they have a problem related to sextortion. Before these situations arise, make sure you understand the laws and your school policies around reporting. The first priority is always to keep students safe, and that can require different actions depending on the situation.

Develop a script to guide the conversation.

Some educators create a script to guide conversations and keep students aware of the implications of what they’re saying.

Here’s something to get you started: “Thank you for trusting me. I can see you’re about to tell me something difficult – I’m here to listen and help, not judge. I want to make sure you’re safe, but need you to know that I’m required to report to [specific person or entity] if you tell me anything about [mandatory reporting issues]. That said, I will only speak with the people I need to speak with, and we can talk about who those people are. If that is not what you want, let’s talk about who else in your life you can go to for help right now.”

Pro-tip: Talk with other educators about online safety. You’ve just learned a lot of information that would be valuable for other teachers to understand. Plus, the more consistently educators respond to these issues, the less confused students will be.

Talk to students about online safety and reporting tools.

Bringing these topics and discussions to the classroom can help youth learn how to stay safe online. You can share Thorn’s Stop Sextortion Video. Make sure that you explain mandatory reporting laws in your state so that when a student shares their experiences, they are not surprised by the outcomes.

Tell students how to make a report if they are experiencing sextortion. To learn how to report content visit our help centers for Facebook and Instagram. Teach them about Take It Down, which is a free service to prevent the spread of any intimate images or videos of themselves. Reports remain confidential and anonymous.

You or the student can also reach out to a local hotline via the InHope Network to make a report or get help.

Be there unconditionally.

Young people experiencing sextortion are so scared of getting in trouble. They’re worried about shaming their parents, that they’ll get suspended from school, judged by friends or in trouble with the police. These fears can even be suggested by the blackmailer to maintain control over them, and sadly these things do happen. These fears keep young people silent. Even if you think they know you’ll support them, telling them that you will be there for them no matter what can make a big difference in them sharing their experiences with you when something feels off or goes wrong.

Tell students: don’t forward pics.

Nude photos and videos are circulating in schools. A key component in keeping your students, and others, safe is helping them understand that even though this is happening, it is not okay. Sharing someone's non-consensual intimate imagery is against social media companies' rules and could also break local laws. It is crucial to encourage them not to participate in this behavior and to empower them to call it out when they see it.