It Starts With A Conversation: How To Protect Your Child From Falling Victim To Sex Trafficking Or Predators Online

It Starts With A Conversation: How To Protect Your Child From Falling Victim To Sex Trafficking Or Predators Online

“STOLEN” is a year-long NBC 7 investigation into the sex trafficking and exploitation of children in San Diego County. The seven-episode documentary series is told from the perspective of survivors, advocates -- even traffickers, and sex buyers, explaining the depth and scope of this problem in our communities and our schools. And with more children online during the coronavirus pandemic, experts say they are at greater risk of exploitation now more than ever.  “STOLEN” celebrates the strength of survivors and their families, as they struggle to free themselves from the bonds of sex trafficking. See the full series here.

Parenthood is full of awkward conversations. Whether that conversation is about sex, sickness, divorce, death, or any of life’s tragedies, those conversations help gain your child’s trust.

And, as more and more kids are signing into social media apps and websites, so too are the sexual predators who are looking to recruit young boys and girls into a life of sex trafficking. 

With the rise of technology and apps, experts say parents should have conversations with their children early about the dangers that lirk online.

To offset the increased exposure caused by social media and technology, experts are placing more and more emphasis on parents to sit down and have conversations with their children to make them aware of the dangers that lurk online. Doing so not only helps inform them but can help your child gain trust that is needed in order to keep them from making life-altering decisions that could tear them away from loved ones and tear their lives apart.

Researchers from Baylor University found that parents should be having those conversations with their children at an early age. 

And while specifics about sex trafficking will likely not do much other than scare and confuse young children, teaching them to respect and care for their bodies, as well as learning about the importance of private space, is a starting point in the larger conversation. In addition, learning about gender stereotypes and equality can also help your child prepare for any potential threats that could arise.

For those over the age of 7 and into their pre-teen years, experts at Baylor suggest parents and guardians talk to children about the differences between forced and fair labor. One way that experts say can help that tip sink in is to start giving their children an allowance. Ask them if their allowance would be enough to pay an adult for work. That will allow them to understand fair and equitable wages as well as the distinction between forced and fair labor.

While teens are the most capable of understanding, they may be put off by the awkwardness of the topic. However, they are the ones most at risk, making it that much more important for that conversation to take place.

Despite any potential long, awkward silences, researchers say conversations about sex are important and that the teen knows that their bodies are not for sale, nor are they a commodity. If they are dating, advocates advise explaining to them that sexual encounters should always be 100% consensual and that our bodies are never a means for us, or someone else, to get something we want.

A teen's first job is a milestone, a right of passage of sorts. But experts say it is important to talk to them about financial responsibility, and how bad financial habits often lead to bad decision making.

So, just when is a good time to have that conversation? It varies, but experts are sure about one thing, it should happen as soon as your teenager gets their hand on their own smartphone. 

But the rise of technology and apps is not all bad when it comes to sex trafficking. More and more apps and programs are available to help inform parents and their children about new tactics employed by sexual predators.

One of which is NetSmartz, an online safety education program that provides age-appropriate learning material that helps teach children the dangers of predators that stalk the internet looking for new victims. Parents can also download a PowerPoint with tips on how to start a conversation from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

For more helpful tips and websites, on human trafficking in the San Diego region, read through the San Diego County District Attorney's frequently asked questions about the industry, or browse around on The Ugly Truth's website.

There are also toolkits parents can use to start the discussion about porn, media, and screen time:

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