By Shannon Fitzgibbon

Online blackmail is the term that defines the threatening of someone over the internet to leak information to either the public or friends and family unless that individual complies with the demands of the blackmailer. Online blackmail can happen to anyone with access to the internet, including young children. Through exposure on online messaging platforms or social media, children can come into contact with predatory individuals who aim to get sensitive information or images from children. Some of these harmful strangers will threaten to hurt someone, themselves, or the child in order to get what they want. This is definitely a scary matter, but there are ways to prevent this from happening.

First and foremost, it is imperative to not share sensitive information or images over the internet with people you do not know personally. If a stranger intends to harm or to blackmail, this will readily supply them with the power to do so. In the situation where someone constantly is pressuring you to give them your private information or is relentlessly asking for photos of yourself, it is best to speak to either a trusted adult about the matter or block the person on the messaging platform. It is best to take it a step further and report the person on the online platform or app used, this will help ensure that others do not fall victim to online blackmail.

For parents who are concerned for their children’s safety, the primary reason that young people do not seek help when faced with online blackmail is out of fear or embarrassment. Beginning the conversation on online safety and what appropriate conversations look like. Such promises that seem “too good to be true” is a common tactic in appealing to children online, knowing what manipulation tactics are used can also ensure you and your child can identify what online blackmailing could look like early on.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can I ensure that my personal information does not fall into the hands of the wrong person online?
  2. Who is one person I can ask for help when I am in danger online?
  3. What are some promises made over the internet that may seem “too good to be true”?
  4. Locate the functions on various messaging apps that allow you to block, report, etc. When should strangers be blocked or reported?


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