Are you a parent who has a child using a social media channel like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr or Snapchat? If so, it is critical for you to read this.
The evolution of technology and the Internet opening the door for new channels of communication has presented a great opportunity for simplifying communication between two parties. With great opportunity comes great responsibility.
It is easier now more than ever before for your child to directly speak to and engage with friends and strangers. Getting to your child online is one of the first (and most effective) steps used by sex predators in the human trafficking world.
Before technology, human trafficking thrived on face-to-face interaction. Minors were taught to be weary of strangers at malls, parks or other public spaces. In 2016 and beyond, even the comfort of your own home can be a dangerous place if your child has access to the Internet. Once limited to luring victims in public spaces, traffickers can now message thousands of people through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Kik, WhatsApp and Snapchat.
These social media platforms being used as arsenal for these traffickers have added a whole new level of difficulty for law enforcement. If you have a child in elementary school, High School or any age for that matter, pay attention to these warning signs to identify if your child may be in contact with an online predator.
Your child may be in contact with an online predator if he or she:
- Becomes secretive about online activities
- Becomes obsessive about being online
- Gets angry when he or she can’t get online
- Receives phone calls from people you do not know or makes calls to numbers that you do not recognize
- Receives gifts, mail, or packages from someone you do not know
- Withdraws from family and friends
- Changes screens or turns off computer when an adult enters a room
- Begins downloading pornography online
As a parent it’s important to stay aware and alert of the apps and websites your child is active on. So many of these sites have privacy settings that are not being utilized, giving predators a direct line to your child. Do your research, stay informed and talk to your child about the online dangers that are so commonly overlooked.