Traffickers, posing as kids, are using the internet as a way to target unsuspecting and vulnerable youth by pretending to be their friend from school or other places kids hang out at like the mall, a talent scout or someone representing a model agency, or by pretending to like and then love the child. The ultimate goal of the predator is to meet in person or have the child send suggestive photos online.
Traffickers use a deliberate process to identify and recruit their victims with words such as “I understand”, “This happened to me”, “I also hate my parents because they don’t understand me”, “All teachers are stupid”, etc. After they gain the child’s trust, the predator moves in with things like sharing photos that become more and more suggestive and then bribing the child with these photos and/or telling the child to sneak out of the house to meet them somewhere.
What can an adult do to help their child? The following tips are from the UNITAS website :
Talk to your children about internet safety and create agreements with your child that covers the following points (try signing an actual contract with your child to make it more powerful — download one here ).
Start early — Traffickers have been known to start grooming children as young as 8 years old:
- Allowing you to be friends with them on their social media sites,
- Accepting friend requests only from people they have met in person,
- Having them tell you if someone suggests that they send sexy or provocative photos or if someone offers them a job or travel opportunity,
- Talking to you if they receive sexual images or other inappropriate links from another person,
- Asking your child to set their photos on the highest level of internet security so that strangers cannot download their images.
Be “present” and available for your kids… Let your kids know that you care. Tell them you love them. Show them you love them. Meet their needs as best you can–and if you can’t, then at least let them know you are trying!
Be sure to tune in to a livestream event on April 23rd at 7 pm from the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking with Lt. John Pizzuro of the NJ State Police Internet Crimes Against Children.
For additional information about online safety, go to www.internetsafety101.org