Sex traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and naivety. The average age of entry into prostitution is 14 to 16 years old and traffickers are known to recruit at schools, malls, and right now the major means of recruiting is through social media. Recruitment takes many forms: solicitation by other women or girls recruiting on behalf of the sex trafficker; the “boyfriend” approach of appearing romantically interested while slowly coercing them into prostitution; and even the “daddy “ form where men promise to care for and be a father figure to the girls who long for protection and provision.
As a parent you may be asking, “what can I do?” Here are four things that you can do to help prevent your child from being lured away by a trafficker:
Educate your children about human trafficking.
Let them know that it is here, what it looks like and to talk to you or another trusted adult if they think they see it. Discuss ways children and teens are targeted for sex trafficking. Let them know that traffickers specifically try to woo young girls and boys with promises of a better life—whether it is promises of love and attention or promises of nice things and trips – these traffickers look for ways of exploiting dreams. Traffickers can be male or female even classmates. Sometimes traffickers use kids to recruit kids.
Talk to your children about social media.
Help your children to define friendships. Social media has distorted our children’s understanding of what friendship means. Teach them that a friend is not someone you met yesterday and that a friend on Facebook is not real friendship.
It is important to provide practical safety tips like:
- don’t share personal information on the Internet;
- don’t accept Facebook requests from people that you don’t know;
- never share naked pictures of yourself with anyone;
- and tell a parent or a trusted adult if you feel threatened or uncomfortable.
Technology is a big part of how sex trafficking happens with youth.
Know your children’s passwords and what is on their phones. Have access to their emails, texts, instagram, etc. Remember that privacy and safety are both important.
Technological devices available include: GPS tracking devices that can be placed on phones, clothes, and in backpacks which help parents and authorities track your child and find them when they are first missing. DNA scent kits which can be used to help authorities and dogs track a scent trait.
Pay attention to your children.
Monitor their social media accounts, find ways to meet their friends, their friend’s parents and those they hang out with. Be alert to boyfriends who are much older, or friendships that tend to isolate your child from other friends or family. Take notice if your child has new clothing items, cell phone or other items that they would not normally have and inquire about where them came from.