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Countdown to Summer

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Keeping kids safe online.

This school year has been filled with new experiences as we’ve adapted to the many changes and challenges happening around us. Our educators have stood up to these challenges and have educated over 9,000 individuals on the prevention of human trafficking this year. We know that to continue to do our part in helping to preserve the safety of our youth, we must put our focus and attention on the issues that matter most to families, such as keeping kids safe online.

In the summertime, our kids spent more time at home and have bigger gaps between activities. Keeping our kids entertained is an age-old challenge that has withstood the test of time. We’ve all heard it, that dreaded “I’m bored” “There’s nothing to do!” whine in our children’s voices, causing us to panic a little bit while we struggle between the want to find things for them to do and the need to get our own to do lists done.

Little did we know, a mysterious superhero has swooped in and saved our children – and us - from this unavoidable dilemma. But has it? The mysterious superhero in question - the internet – constantly keeps us guessing if it’s the villain or the hero. And, as it turns out, it can be both at any given moment.

The internet can be an educational and entertaining tool to be used for good, but human traffickers use it to find those they intend to sexually exploit. According to the Polaris Project,

Online recruitment increased by 22% in 2020 and has become the top recruitment location for all forms of trafficking.

The broad reach of the internet allows traffickers to recruit those they intend to traffic more effectively through social media. Long gone are the days where traffickers only have a few minutes in person to build trust with someone. Instead, they can take months to cultivate a relationship through calculated responses via chat functions. Traffickers will scour social media pages and posts finding vulnerabilities they can use to coerce their targets. Our youth are accustomed to sharing their thoughts, feelings, and opinions online, which may put them at risk to be noticed by a trafficker.

If a teen or tween goes online venting about regular everyday problems, such as feeling as though no one in their life understands them, that they feel ugly, or are tired of being single may be enough for a trafficker to reach out and respond with a false sense of support and encouragement to start building a relationship. They might use fraud to capture the attention of a young person wanting to become an influencer or model by noticing their pictures online and promising them a life of glamour and fame. They'll say things like “I understand you” and "I can make all of your dreams come true" and eventually, “no one loves you like I do”, gaining enough trust to sway them into situations that are difficult to break free from.

Instead of discouraging social media use, we encourage parents and caregivers to be attentive to what their children are doing online, be knowledgeable about who your children have contact with or who may be trying to interact with them, and ensure they are on age-appropriate platforms and using safety features on platforms that are used by people of all ages. These suggestions, along with talking to your children about responsible internet use, can all make a huge difference in keeping your children safe online.

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