Is My Child Being Threatened or Pressured?

Share this article:
When one person holds power over another, they can often influence someone to act in uncharacteristic ways. In this article we reflect upon the dynamics of power and possible indications that a child is being pressured.

What is Extortion?

What is Extortion

Extortion can be defined as a situation where one person makes unjustifiable and threatening demands on another for personal gain. In this scenario, a person's vulnerabilities are often exploited in order to put pressure on them to do or say things they wouldn't normally do out of fear that their vulnerabilities could be exposed.

Blackmail is a form of extortion, wherein the threat is to expose embarrassing, disgraceful, or damaging information about a person to family, friends, or the public unless money or some other favor is paid to purchase silence. This could occur when a child has shared sensitive personal information (e.g., sexually explicit images of themselves) with someone else. This person then threatens to publicly post these images online for everyone to see unless the child gives them money.

Whatever the situation, the fear of being publicly shamed and embarrassed can be a very challenging thing to deal with, and a young person may feel they have no alternative but to comply with the demands being placed on them.

It's important to note that an extortionist may not even want money. For example; they may believe that a child is less likely to come to the attention of the authorities and want the child to transport/hide drugs or firearms for them. They may be seeking sexual favors for themselves or others. Their motives for extorting a child can be anything. The critical issue is that the child or young person is being coerced through fear and intimidation to do something they don’t want to do, and the extortionist stands to gain from it.

How do I Prove It's Extortion?

To prove extortion is happening or has happened:

  1. A demand has to have been made or implied
  2. The demand was made or implied with a threat of action that would be taken if the demand is not met
  3. The person making the demand stands to gain from the victim complying with the demand


What Are the Signs?

If your child is being extorted or blackmailed, they may exhibit behaviors associated with bullying or anxiety. You may notice that they become jumpy when receiving message notifications. There may be a sudden and unexplained change in their phone usage.

They could also exhibit behaviors that are out of character such as:

  • Angry outbursts that are out of character
  • Avoiding activities, such as seeing friends, going out in public or attending school
  • Lacking the confidence to try new things or seeming unable to face simple, everyday tasks
  • Experiencing problems eating or sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Have negative thoughts, or imagine that bad things are going to happen


What Can I Do?

Use your regular one-on-one time to cultivate trust between you and your child and let them know they can rely on you to support with any problems or difficulties they may have. You might want to tell them about a similar case you might have heard and reassure them they can come to you if that was to ever happen to them.

For more information, check out these websites:

The links below provide an overview of these issues and outline governmental procedures in the US. This information may be helpful and informative if you are considering seeking professional help.

If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact the Childhelp to speak to one of their counselors. Call or text 1-800-422-4453, or contact them via their online live chat.