Human Trafficking Awareness Month

by | Jan 2, 2020 | Uncategorized

Protect your child from becoming a victim

The internet is a wealth of in­formation, but it is also a place where danger is just one click away.

Today, most teens – and now many children – have access to a smartphone or a computer, however, many parents are un­aware of the risks this kind of connectivity poses.

Pew Research Center reports that 45 percent of teens are online almost constantly via phone, computer or gaming de­vice. With this type of access, social media is increasingly being exploited to contact, re­cruit and sell children for sex according to the University of Toledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.

Does it scare you? If not, it should. If your child has a device, they are at risk. With a simple click, they have the ability to connect with strang­ers anywhere in the world. As parents we need to step up our game to stay ahead of sneaky teens and potential pedophiles. We must be consistent and vig­ilant about keeping them safe.

If I sound a little impas­sioned about this topic, you’re correct. I’ve had my eyes opened to this horrendous crime (#2 in the U.S.) against our youth. I’ve interviewed victims of sex trafficking, nonprofits that aid trafficking victims, attended seminars on the topic, and spent countless hours researching this crime. As a result, I have made a com­mitment to myself to spread the word through my writing.

What I’ve learned is, as par­ents it’s better to be informed and educated so we can advo­cate for the safety of our chil­dren and the safety of others. Don’t be naïve and think it can’t happen in Collin or Dal­las County. It already has.

Take these steps to help pro­tect your child from being a potential victim.

• Monitor your child’s on­line account and friends. Don’t allow unlimited access to TV, internet and smart devices (phones, laptops, tablets, gam­ing systems), follow them on social media and take steps to password protect their set­tings and restrict their ability to download apps without con­sent. If they are under 18, use parental controls and filtering programs such as TeenSafe, X3Watch, or CovenantEyes. Keep your child’s phone or computer out of their bedroom and locked away at night.

“Know what your kids are doing, who they are seeing and where they are going on the in­ternet,” says Vicki Latham, Di­rector of Communication and Development of 4theone.org, a Carrollton nonprofit that helps locate missing teens. “Get their passwords and login informa­tion on all devices. Activate the GPS location trackers on their phones.”

• Talk to your kids about traf­ficking. Because children are so trusting, they are easy prey for traffickers. Studies show the average age a child is re­cruited is 12 or 13 years old for a girl, 14-15 for a boy. “Have a discussion about the dangers of social media and manipulative people, who sometimes look totally cute and cool on the outside, but they do not have their best interest at heart,” says Latham.

• Educate your child about sex abuse prevention. “1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before age 18 and 90 percent of the time it is someone they know well and trust such as a cousin, uncle, boyfriend, brother or fa­ther,” reports Rebecca Jowers, founder of Rockwall-based Poiema, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of hu­man trafficking. Look for ways to meet your child’s friends, their friends’ parents and those they hang out with. Don’t let your child go to a sleepover at someone’s house who you don’t know really well.

• Make them feel safe and secure at home. If teens are from a loving, caring home the risks are far lower.” It’s the vul­nerability factors that put the person at risk,” reports Jowers. Factors such as age, history of abuse, divorce, death, parents doing drugs, kids in foster care, etc. can all make a child more vulnerable.

• Prevention education is key. Human trafficking train­ing for educators in Texas is not mandated nor is it a re­quired topic for students. Much like bullying and drug aware­ness, this is a topic that MUST be covered. Ask your child’s school, youth organization or church to offer awareness and prevention programming to students, parents and school staff. Nonprofits Traffick911 and Poiema not only aid vic­tims of trafficking, they work to raise awareness through pre­vention education. Traffick911 hosts a class called Traps, an interactive youth program de­signed to equip youth (ages 12-18) to avoid the tricks, traps and lures of human traffickers. Poiema offers a class called Human Trafficking (HT) 101 that educates people how to report suspicious activity, how perpetrators recruit children, how to identify human traf­ficking victims, how to talk to children about sex and human trafficking and sex abuse pre­vention and education.

The time is now to be proac­tive about protecting our chil­dren about this form of modern day slavery. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

For more stories like this, see the Jan. 2 issue or subscribe online

Sonia Duggan • Associate Publisher for C&S Media

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