The Dangers of Social Media – Human Trafficking and Social Media Safety
By brandon •
When Mark Zuckerberg set out to design Facebook, he did so with the desire to create a space where Harvard students could develop connections with others, share photos and videos, send messages, and communicate from anywhere with an internet connection.
Since its creation in 2004, it has made the leap from being a Harvard student exclusive to a worldwide connectivity tool and has seen other applications like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat sprout up alongside it, each with their unique ways for users to establish an instantaneous connection with others and stay up to date on their lives from afar.
Though the use of social media can be an asset to users, these applications are not without their dangers.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics statement, the average eight-year-old spends eight hours a day consuming various forms of media. That number increases to 11 hours a day as those children become teens.
Catfishers, Stalkers, and Human Traffickers often choose their targets based on the personal information that is publicly available to them through a child or teen’s social media profile. These victimizers sell themselves to kids by claiming to be students from another school who find them attractive or want to get to know them. Then, they use this newly established connection to manipulate their victims through a process called grooming.
Grooming is when someone establishes an emotional connection to a child to exploit, traffic, or sexually abuse them.
There are six stages to this process, and they are:
- Targeting a victim
- Gaining trust
- Filling a need
- Isolating the child
- Sexualizing the relationship
- Maintaining control
These things are happening right in our backyard. In February 2019, law enforcement rescued a Marion County teenage boy from a Pinellas County sex trafficking ring. “The teenage victim, in this case, was lured away from his family with promises of a better life,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody revealed in a news release. (Brought back (ocala.com)) Instead of receiving a “better life,” his captors used the boy as a sex slave. After freeing the boy, police issued a statement indicating that suspects used Discord’s online gaming app to groom him.
Social media was created to bring people together, but there are dangers that should not be ignored. According to all the major studies done on what influences youth, parents are considered to be the most influential people in their children’s lives. That’s why it is crucial for parents to actively teach their children social media safety and human trafficking awareness. Doing so will empower them to discern these dangers on their own.
As a parent, you will never be perfect, your teen will never be perfect, but you can always be present. There are even several strategies that can be implemented to help you and your child stand a better chance at being protected while utilizing social media for the many benefits it can offer.
- Set strict privacy settings – The more information about you is available, the easier it is for you to be targeted.
- Think before posting – Anything you post online is considered public information.
- Never share your private information with a stranger
- Never meet up with someone you don’t personally know, especially by yourself.
- Be on the lookout for propositions like “Meet me tonight.” or “Meet me at X location” from strangers.
- Be wary of strangers asking you for a favor and following it up with “don’t tell anybody.”
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