Digital world: Protecting adolescents from sextortion

In our ever-connected digital era, where communication thrives, there's a shadowy side endangering our adolescents: the alarming surge in 'sextortion' cases targeting children across the UK. Today’s article in the Daily Mail emphasises the urgent need for parents, educators and policymakers to confront this pervasive threat with openness, awareness and action.


The National Crime Agency's unprecedented alert to all 570,000 teachers across Britain serves as a stark reminder of the severity of the situation. Shockingly, the number of children ensnared in these insidious schemes has skyrocketed by 266% in just two years, a statistic that demands immediate attention and proactive measures.

Behind these nefarious acts are ruthless criminal gangs preying on the innocence and vulnerability of our youth, luring them into false relationships before coercing them into sharing intimate images or videos. The consequences are devastating, with victims facing not only emotional trauma but also the threat of public humiliation and social ostracisation.

The heart-wrenching stories of two teenagers who tragically took their own lives after falling victim to sextortion serve as painful reminders of the real and irreversible consequences of these heinous acts. Their parents' impassioned pleas for awareness and vigilance resonate deeply, urging us to heed the warning signs and take decisive action to protect our children.

As Security Minister Tom Tugendhat rightly emphasises, prevention begins with education and dialogue. Parents must engage in open and honest conversations with their children about the dangers of online interactions, fostering a culture of trust and transparency that encourages them to seek help when needed.

Also, technology companies must shoulder their responsibility in safeguarding users and implementing robust measures to prevent exploitation and abuse. Collaboration between law enforcement, policymakers, and tech industry leaders is essential in devising comprehensive solutions to combat sextortion and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

The National Crime Agency's alert provides a crucial roadmap for identifying and addressing sextortion, offering guidance on recognising the signs of abuse, supporting victims and facilitating crucial conversations between parents and children.

As a therapist, I often find myself in counselling sessions with both teenagers and their parents, navigating the complexities of adolescence in an increasingly digital world. One of the most crucial aspects of these sessions is emphasising the significance of open communication within the family unit. Parents, understandably, may feel hesitant or embarrassed to broach topics related to relationships, intimacy and online safety with their teenagers. 

However, it's essential to recognise that these conversations are not only necessary but can also serve as powerful tools for building trust, understanding and resilience.

To the teenagers in my counselling sessions, I impart a message of empowerment and agency. I emphasise that while the internet offers boundless opportunities for connection and self-expression, it also harbours potential risks and dangers. It's crucial for adolescents to understand their digital footprint and recognise the importance of setting boundaries, respecting their own privacy and exercising caution when interacting online. I encourage them to approach social media with discernment, reminding them that their worth extends far beyond likes, comments and followers.

I stress the significance of assertiveness and self-advocacy. Teenagers need to feel empowered to assert their boundaries, whether online or offline and seek help when they encounter situations that make them uncomfortable or unsafe. By fostering a sense of self-worth and resilience, adolescents can navigate the digital landscape with confidence and integrity.

To parents, I offer guidance and support in navigating these often-daunting conversations. I emphasise the importance of creating a safe and non-judgmental space for open dialogue, where teenagers feel heard, valued and respected. Parents must cultivate a relationship based on trust and mutual respect, demonstrating empathy and understanding even when discussing difficult or uncomfortable topics.

I encourage parents to lead by example, modelling healthy communication patterns and demonstrating a willingness to listen and learn from their teenagers. It's essential for parents to acknowledge their own vulnerabilities and uncertainties, recognising that none of us are immune to the challenges of navigating adolescence in the digital age. By approaching these conversations with humility and authenticity, parents can foster a sense of connection and trust that transcends generational divides.

When discussing topics such as relationships and intimacy, I encourage parents to adopt a proactive and preventative approach. Rather than waiting for issues to arise, I advocate for ongoing conversations that normalise discussions about consent, respect and healthy boundaries. By equipping teenagers with the knowledge and skills to navigate relationships with integrity and empathy, parents can empower them to make informed choices and resist manipulation and coercion.

In conclusion, open and honest communication is the cornerstone of building strong, resilient families and empowering teenagers to navigate the complexities of adolescence in an increasingly digital world. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Guildford GU5 & GU2
Guildford GU5 & GU2

Donna Morgan is a highly experienced Humanistic Mental Health Therapist with 26 years of practice. Her passion for helping individuals with their mental health has driven her to develop a compassionate and holistic approach to therapy. Donna firmly believes in treating each client as a unique individual and providing them with personalised support.

Show comments

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals