Written by: Kristina Glackin
Program Coordinator, Exploit No More
As parents, the last thing we need is another reason to worry. But predators are real, trafficking does happen, and your child could be a target. The good news is that worry can be combated with wisdom! That’s why this blog exists.
With so much to navigate in the coming months, hopefully, we can help you navigate internet safety for your children and decrease their risk of becoming a potential target. Here are some facts about online predators:
You can be ANYONE online.
Have you heard of the term, “catfishing?” Catfishing is when someone pretends to be someone else on the internet and deceives another person into loving them. Traffickers operate much like a catfish but with much more nefarious plans. Keep in mind, your daughter’s 14-year-old internet friends named Becky could actually be a 41-year-old man named Bradley.
They know where kids “hang out:”
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok—Too much to keep up with! Unless, of course, your primary focus is meeting vulnerable children to exploit. For a trafficker, grooming is a full-time job. They will join Roblox, Word with Friends, Miraculous, and even Farmville searching for kids with little monitoring and a whole lot of free time.
Virtual reality IS reality:
It is easy for us to believe “it’s just the internet, my child would never meet a stranger” but, much like online dating, eventually, online interactions with a trafficker could become in-person interactions. Any proximity to a trafficker – virtual or otherwise- is too close. They are masters at finding and manipulating vulnerabilities and convincing children to meet. Unfortunately, with school shut down for at least a month, our children will be more bored than ever, which is a vulnerability in and of itself so we must be vigilant.
Now that you know a little bit about how traffickers operate online, here are some tips that can help set you, and your family, for safety:
I cannot emphasize this enough. Be THAT parent. Will you annoy them? Probably. Will they be frustrated? Most likely. Will they feel embarrassed? You bet! But are they worth it?! Without a doubt! Go through their internet history, see who they are subscribed to on YouTube, check all inboxes from gaming to social media and ASK QUESTIONS! Ask who their friends are, how they know them, and how long. Again, knowledge is power!
Say it with me: PARENTAL CONTROLS!
Sometimes we may feel like we cannot control our kids (No? Just me?!), however, we CAN control what they see on the internet. Here is a link that can help you set controls on your devices: https://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/panda-security/parental-control/
Spend time together and keep them busy:
Life can get busy. Heck, you are probably opening fruit snacks, clipping your nails and scheduling your oil change as you read this- I get it, it is chaos! However, one on one time with your child can leave them feeling full, valued and special. Besides the obvious, this is important because traffickers work by trying to have your child turn on you, claiming you don’t care or love them. God forbid your child is ever contacted by a trafficker, but if they are, your child will be able to combat those lies with their memories you created for them.
Keep them informed:
While you may not want to have a full-blown conversation about sex trafficking with your preteen, talking with them about real dangers in this world can empower them to make sound decisions.
For more information and tips, be sure to follow us on Facebook. Facebook.com/exploitnomore
Also, check out this news story from Fox 6 and the FBI that was posted recently regarding the increased risk of child exploitation due to COVID-19.
Be smart. Keep your kids safe. Live in a place of faith, not fear.
Program Coordinator, Exploit No More