How much time does your child spend online every day? The average child between ages 8 and 18 spends more than seven hours a day on electronic devices including computers, tablets, phones and video games.
Do you have any idea who they are communicating with?
Many teens believe they can say or do anything online—and remain anonymous. Even a smart kid who wouldn’t talk to strangers in real life might share their most intimate thoughts online with someone they’ve never met. They may divulge the school they attend, parents’ work hours and numerous personal details.
This information along with their name and profile photo makes it easy for sex traffickers to find and exploit children.
Three Masks of Sex Traffickers
1. Fake Boyfriends/Girlfriends
Many traffickers will pose as a potential boyfriend or girlfriend. They build trust by listening to a teen’s problems, offering compliments and promises. As the online relationship progresses, teens feel comfortable meeting in person. At that point, they may meet the real person behind the profile picture or continue the relationship until it escalates into trafficking.
2. Party Friends
Traffickers may befriend their targets and offer more than a listening ear. The offer of drugs or alcohol is all it takes for some kids to let down their defenses. Once the teens are addicted to the substances provide, they are forced into trafficking.
3. Peer Recruiter
Traffickers will often recruit children and teens using other teens under their control. These teens will wear expensive clothes and accessories, brag about special treatment and money. It doesn’t take long before your teen starts to want these things, too. The recruiter is willing to make the introduction to the trafficker.
What Parents Can Do
There is plenty you can do as a parent to protect your kids from sex traffickers. The tips will help increase your teen’s safety.
1. Logging in
Know the login information for every social media account your child has. Take it one step further by regularly logging in and checking them to make sure all communication is safe.
2. Set up clear boundaries
These may include no private chats, parents need to approve pictures, or no internet after 10 p.m.
3. Open Communication
Speak regularly about those hard to talk about topics like drinking, drugs, sex and sex trafficking. The more you talk to your teen, the more you’ll increase your teen’s safety.
Don’t wait until your child is in middle school, you can use age-appropriate language to discuss these topics. Remember, children as young as age 11 are being trafficked. Also let your child know they can talk to you about anything at any time. Even if a subject makes you uncomfortable, it’s important to keep you composure so your child will be comfortable coming to you.
Catholic Charities is working to help kids get the best start on life. From our early education programs to our programs for middle and high schoolers, we work to prevent risky behavior that could lead to trafficking.
This work is possible because of your support. Please consider giving a one time or monthly gift to keep kids safe in your community.