During this period of Covid-19, the topic of sex trafficking has become a significant talking point. Parents are realizing the number of hours their children are spending online and on social media is at an all-time high. We know the more time our kids are on their computers and smartphones, the likelihood of being exposed to pornographic material increases. They are also more likely to be contacted by someone who has the intention to harm them.
With anxiety and depression so prevalent during Covid, it’s no wonder our kids are turning to technology to feel better. The truth is, it provides an escape, but it also opens them up to predators. The purpose of this article is not to scare you but to educate you on how sex traffickers are gaining access to our children so you can make the necessary changes in your household to protect your children.
Sex-trafficking is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. There are people whose job it is to seek new ways to access vulnerable people. We have been misled to believe that if we tell our girls to avoid white vans and not go to the bathroom alone, our fears of them being trafficked are alleviated. The truth is those are not the primary ways young people are trafficked.
Vulnerable girls (and boys too) can be lured into trafficking through many different means, but certainly and most commonly these days through technology. There are traffickers on social media, in video games, in chat rooms, you name it. Their whole focus is on connecting with your kid.
Here are a few simple things you can do to help safeguard your children from traffickers:
1. Don’t allow your child to be online in their room or anywhere they have complete privacy. I know this is hard to do as so many kids are home now doing school online. It may look a little different during this timeframe. Perhaps you have them keep the door open, and you make frequent passes by their space to remind them that you are aware and watching. If your kids know you are actively monitoring them, they will be less likely to engage in risky online behavior.
2. Put boundaries on technology. Depending on the age, that may include an automatic shut off at a particular hour of the night or adding filtering software to your devices. It might be only allowing your child to play video games with kids you know and approve of, and it might involve you doing a daily check on their phone to see if there are any warning signs. I know some parents who collect all smartphones at the end of the day so their kids can have a break from the constant connection.
3. Talk to your children about sex trafficking and how they can protect themselves from becoming a victim. If you create an open and safe place for them to discuss sexting, pornographic images, an unexpected message, or an online request, you are doing the very best thing possible. Kids with an open and honest relationship with their parents are less likely to become victims of most anything.
The realities of Covid-19 and the ways our kids have had to adjust to online life may have a long-lasting impact on their lives and the ways they use technology. We will have to adjust to these changes to protect our children from the dangers that come with it.