In today’s ever fast-paced lifestyle, teenagers and their parents often pass each other during the day but struggle to find time for meaningful dialog. Once your child falls asleep for the night, you decide to check their phone. Scrolling through text messages and SnapChat conversations, shockingly you stumble across a picture of your child’s significant other showing off body private parts.
Through the course of following the text message chain, you discover your child is encouraged or pressured to share images of their private parts. But then you notice the tone of the messages and suspect there is more to the situation than meets the eye.
In part two of Dr. Seandra Walker’s blog series on Sextortion, she provides insights into how a parent or legal guardians should handle the situation with their child. A parents first instinct is to overact, confront their child, demand answers. However, Dr. Walker, Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health’s Sexual Inappropriate Behavioral Remediation (SIBR) program manager, suggests a more sensible non-confrontation approach.
- Ask questions. It is important for parents to ask children questions about their experiences online; however, knowing children are not always willing to share this information. Many children fear that their
parents will judge them or worse… their online privileges may be revoked. Therefore, parents should use a nonjudgmental approach when asking questions. Instead of asking, “Have you ever sent nude photos to someone online!?”, a parent may ask, “Has anyone you know ever been involved in sextortion?”
- Monitor your child’s online activity. Do not assume that your child is safe because they are playing Mindcraft or Roblox. Predators are there, too. Monitor your children’s devices and online activity. There is no such thing as a child’s “right” to online privacy from their parents. Establish this early and make it the expectation that you are monitoring their devices and that they can be searched by you at any point.
- Keep yourself (and your child) educated. If you think your teen is only on Facebook, you’re wrong. Try to stay up to date with popular social media platforms and video game servers. Educate your children about the dangers of sharing personal/confidential information online, even with people they consider “friends.”
If your child is experiencing sextortion, contact law enforcement immediately.
If you suspect your child/teen is involved in sending or receiving sexting messages or they have experienced sextortion victimization, the Healthy Sexuality group program may be able to help.
Dr. Walker said statistics regarding sextortion are difficult because the crime often goes unreported. She indicated Stark County kids are absolutely experiencing sextortion. Some of kids are being victimized by their peers while others are victims of unknown online perpetrators.
Healthy Sexuality group is an eight-week program that is educational in nature and is designed for youths ages 12 to 18 who have demonstrated inappropriate sexual behavior. The topics discussed in this program include developing and maintaining healthy relationships, internet safety, communication skills, boundaries, sexual education, laws of consent, human trafficking, effects of pornography, and victim impact.
Dr. Walker noted that C&A is definitely seeing an increase for full-treatment SIBR as well as Healthy Sexuality services. C&A’s outpatient SIBR program is unique, not only in Northeastern Ohio but across the county. This program has clients from Stark and surrounding counties.
Below are additional online resources for youth, parents, and professionals.
- Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic (1 hour documentary) https://sextortionfilm.com/
- Team HOPE peer support (https://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/support/teamhope)
Attached are NCMEC NetSmartz handouts for kids and teens.
Remember, mistakes happen. It’s ALWAYS okay to ask for help!
Dr. Seandra Walker is a clinical psychologist and the Sexual Inappropriate Behavior Remediation (SIBR) Program Director at C&A. The mission of the SIBR program is to prevent sexually inappropriate behavior among adolescents and to address its effects on youth, families and the community. The purpose of treatment includes not only the elimination of risk for sexual and/or general recidivism, but also the introduction of positive indicators of health – psychological, social, biological, and/or spiritual. The goal of the SIBR program is to provide relevant psychoeducation, effective interventions, and genuine empathy to remediate inappropriate sexual behaviors and develop skills necessary for healthy and happy relationships.
If you are interested in these services and not already a client of C&A, you can call our intake department (330) 433-6075 to schedule an initial intake.