Learn How You Can Help Prevent Child Trafficking
January marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the United States. This year, we mark this awareness month in the middle of a global pandemic that has caused many children to learn from home in a virtual setting.
Our CEO Angela Liddle recently discussed the impacts of limited in-person interaction on the decline of reported of child abuse and neglect with The Bradford Era, a newspaper based in North Central Pennsylvania. Angela told the reporter that when children spend too much time online, they may face the possibility of increased exposure to virtual predators—some who want to abuse them online and others who may try and traffic them.
To help prevent online child trafficking, consider the following tips and guidelines PFSA, along with other child welfare experts have put together:
- Get to know who your child interacts with online. Whether your child primarily interacts with a teacher, classmates, or friends online, be aware of communication and monitor as needed.
- Look for signs of changes in behavior/demeanor. Notice if your child’s or student’s grades decline, participation in classroom activities and discussions declines, or if their mood and behavior changes when logging on or off a computer. For other signs and indicators of potential child sex and labor trafficking, please visit this page.
- Also pay attention to whom your child interacts with in your neighborhood. Many children have not had social interaction from school while learning at home, so if your child has recently been active in with other children in your neighborhood, remain aware. For ways to stay engaged and aware of what happens in your neighborhood, please see this guide.
- Make sure that children know they have a voice. If anyone is making them feel uncomfortable—no matter who it is—they should come to you or an adult they trust.
- Ask them what social media platforms they use. The most popular social media platforms are Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or Tik Tok? We would recommend visiting these platforms and checking out how each of them work, so you can better understand the interactions children have on them.
- Keep an open dialogue with them about their online use and discuss the potential risks of communicating with strangers. Ask who their friends are that they communicate with and what they talk about. Remind children that if they are ever uncomfortable at any time in their conversations with their friends or anyone else, they can take steps to stop interactions that make them feel uncomfortable and tell an adult.
- Connect with PFSA’s Training Programs. Our Front Porch Project educates, informs, and encourages community members to recognize, report, and prevent abuse, neglect, and trafficking before it occurs. Our ACT Evidence Based Parenting introductory training prepares adults who care for and teach children from birth to 8 years old on positive parenting skills, tools for effective discipline and conflict management, and media literacy. Due to COVID-19, all trainings are conducted virtually. Staying informed and engaged helps prevent harm and save lives.
- If anyone sends inappropriate messages or explicit information to children online, you should report them to your local law enforcement. To report child abuse and neglect call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313. This phone number is staffed 24/7 and you can report information anonymously. We each have a role to prevent child abuse, and a good rule of thumb is to say something if you see something.
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