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19 January 2024, 7:53am
Media Release

AFP advice for parents on how to protect children from online sextortion

Editor's note: Audio grabs are available via Hightail

The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) is highlighting the warning signs of sextortion before school returns, to help parents and carers protect young people from the threat online.

Sextortion is a form of online blackmail where offenders trick or coerce someone into sending sexual images of themselves, before threatening to share the images unless their demands are met. These demands could be for money, more graphic content or sexual favours.

The most recent data from the ACCCE shows around 300 reports of sextortion targeting children each month.

AFP Commander Human Exploitation Helen Schneider said there were tell-tale signs of sextortion, which every parent and carer needed to know.

"Some warning signs include incoming friend requests from strangers or people pretending to be friends with your child, sudden sexualised questions, conversations, or photos from a random profile, who then ask for some in return," Commander Schneider said.

Warning signs for parents and carers:

  • Unsolicited friend or follow requests or random adds from people your child doesn't know.
  • Sudden sexualised questions or conversation.
  • Instantly receiving sexual images from a fake profile who asks for the same from the child.
  • Getting a direct message on one app, then being asked to continue chatting on a different app.
  • Signs that English may be a second language of the person sending the messages.
  • The fake profile might say that their webcam or microphone are not working for video calls/chats to confirm their identity.
  • The fake profile says that they promise to delete your content.

Commander Schneider said there were serious safety and wellbeing concerns for children who were caught up in sextortion, with suicide and self-harm risks attributed to this offending both overseas and in Australia.

"We want parents and carers to be alert to the signs, report and seek help and guidance if they have been targeted by offenders," Commander Schneider said.

"If your child is or has been a victim, it is important to stay calm and reassure them that it's not their fault and that there is help available."

If you know someone that has become a victim of sextortion, here is what to do:

  • Urge them to not send any more graphic content or pay as this will lead to more demands;
  • Take screenshots of the chat for a police report;
  • Block the fake profile and notify the platform administrators;
  • Report the crime to the ACCCE; and
  • Seek mental health support if required. Kids Helpline offers free and confidential sessions with counsellors.

The AFP-led ThinkUKnow program has developed a resource to help the community identify sextortion and how to get help. The Online blackmail and sexual extortion response kit aimed at young people aged 13 -17 is available from the ThinkUKnow and ACCCE websites.

The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse, and the ACCCE is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child abuse.

The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse are urged to contact the ACCCE . If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.

If you or someone you know is impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available.

Research conducted by the ACCCE in 2020 revealed about only half of parents talked to their children about online safety. Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found on the ThinkUKnow website, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

For more information on the role of the ACCCE, what is online child sexual exploitation and how to report it visit the ACCCE website.

Note to media


The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.

Use of the phrase 'child pornography' is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:

  • indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
  • conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.

Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.

Media are reminded to be careful of language around suicide in reporting, more information can be found on the Mindframe website

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