The following content was originally published by Treasured Vessels Foundation, authored by Abigail Ours.
While depictions of child sex trafficking often portray children stolen from the street and bound up as hostages, in reality, traffickers more use advanced manipulation techniques to lure unsuspecting youth.
Online predators are increasingly using gaming platforms, social media, and chatrooms to traffic children. The anonymity offered gives the upper hand to predators and traffickers.
What do traffickers look like?
Traffickers can be anyone. They frequently pretend to be someone they aren’t by setting up fake accounts online to “friend” a teen. They will groom them using a variety of techniques to gain their trust. Many traffickers will use “sextortion” to manipulate- or using ‘sexts’ they have sent to get young teens to comply.
Who do they target?
Teens and children of all ages and backgrounds. Traffickers will often seek out individuals who seem to be unsupervised online, depressed, or those with low self-esteem.
People who do not believe that their children could ever become victimized online are living in an unrealistic world. Regardless of if your child makes ‘As’ or not, that child has the potential to become victimized through online technologies. I think it is very important for parents of all socioeconomic status and with all different roles in society to take this problem very seriously.
— Melissa Morrow, Supervisory Special Agent, Child Exploitation Squad, FBI
What can we do to keep our children safe online?
- Talk to your child about the Internet and set boundaries. Have age-appropriate conversations with your child about the dangers online. If they understand why you’re imposing restrictions on their devices, they may have a more supportive attitude.
- Turn on Parental controls. Parental controls on computers and mobile devices will help block and filter inappropriate online content.
- Restrict access to problematic social media platforms. Don’t give your child access to social media until they are mature enough to use it responsibly.
- Be present in your child’s social media world. Know all of your child’s usernames and passwords to every social media account they have. You should be checking their activity regularly.
For additional resources, read: Human Trafficking May Be Closer Than You Think (How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online)
If you suspect a human trafficking case, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Hotline: 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). It’s secure and anonymous and accessible 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.
You can also report an incident at: http://report.cybertip.org
Text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
About Treasured Vessels Foundation
Treasured Vessels Foundation is a residential community in North Texas operating as a clinically therapeutic aftercare program for survivors of domestic sex trafficking.
TVF is devoted to providing a long-term safe place for healing and growth to individuals impacted by trauma from exploitation in sex trafficking. They have a passion to help restore purpose and value to each person while providing a holistic and comprehensive approach in therapy for a sustainable future.
To better understand the need in North Texas, read: You Can BE THE ONE in the Fight Against Human Trafficking. For more information or to become involved in supporting Treasured Vessels Foundation, visit treasuredvesselsfoundation.org.