5 Tactical Tips for Parents to Prevent Sex Trafficking
The job of parent is no small task. From day one you are responsible for another human being and not just making sure they are fed and clothed. You are responsible to keep them safe and make sure they grow up to be respectable adults. This is hard work. There are countless dangers out in the world and honestly sometimes it is easier to ignore them than to face reality with your child. Trafficking has historically fallen into the easy to ignore, only happens overseas category.
However, domestic trafficking is increasing at a rapid rate and because of this we encourage you to do the work necessary to prevent this horrific crime from happening to your child. Below you will find five tactics to help get you started.
Tactic #1 – Build Trust and Invite Conversation
Start as early as possible building trust between you and your child. You can do this by actively listening to them, getting down on their level and using eye contact when they speak to you, telling them the truth, responding when they ask for help, establishing boundaries, consistency and routine, anticipating their needs from nonverbal cues and keeping the promises that you make. Being open with your child when you make a mistake will also help establish trust.
This trust will help as you invite the difficult but necessary conversations with your child. Focus on what is developmentally and age appropriate for them.
For Younger Children focus on Conversations Around:
-Proper terms for their body parts.
-What private parts are and the reasons we keep them private.
-The difference between safe touch, unsafe touch and unwanted touch. Give them the authority over their own body to voice when they do not want a hug or kiss from someone, even if that someone is a safe adult.
-Teach them what a secret is, and that no adult should ever ask them to keep one. Teach them what a surprise is and use this term in your household instead of secret.
“Brother’s birthday present is a surprise; we cannot say anything about it until it is time for him to open it.” VS. “You need to keep brother’s birthday present a secret; we don’t want him to find out what it is.”
-Explain stranger danger for in-person situations and as they get online access for online situations.
For Teens Focus on Conversations Around:
-What a healthy relationship looks like. Model this behavior if you can. Talk about how dating should look and what they should expect to happen and what is not okay dating behavior.
-Talk about the dangers that live online.
-Give a basic definition of what sex trafficking is and teach them the basics for how to recognize if it is happening. Teaching them to look for the indicators in their friends takes the pressure off of the conversation being about them and gives them the tools to recognize this type of behavior.
-Spend time discussing that their safety as they get older is their responsibility. You’ve given them the tools, but you will not always be around to protect them and therefore they must step up.
-Teens today, especially females, are too often taught to not be rude. Give your teen the power to be impolite to an adult if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe in anyway. Give them the okay to yell and run and tell someone.
Tactic #2 – Invest in Your Kids
Traffickers are looking for vulnerabilities that they can exploit. Teens without support at home or unstable relationships with adults make good targets for these predators. Investing in your kid’s lives creates a deterrent for traffickers.
Spend time with them, meet their friends, go to their soccer games, ask about their day, and listen to what they tell you. Create an environment at home that they want to be a part of, one that feels safe.
Another way you can invest in your kids is by fostering relationships between your child and other trusted adults. By allowing them to build trust and a relationship with an aunt, uncle, or your trusted friend you create another space for them to open up and voice when they are having an issue or need help. Sometimes opening up to your parent can be difficult regardless of how great the relationship is for fear of disappointing a parent. Allowing another trusted adult to be in their life gives them more opportunities to confide or ask for help.
Tactic #3 – Online Safety
The internet has allowed trafficking to scale at a drastic rate and online safety can be an overwhelming topic for parents. Most of us were not parented with access to this type of technology so it can feel like uncharted territory. There are countless tips and tricks available to help protect your child online, but here are the top 3 places we recommend you start.
1.Turn off location services – apps may individually have a location service and be sharing your teen’s location without them knowing. Explain the risk of having this setting turned on and make sure you go into the settings of each app together and confirm all location settings are off.
2.Adjust these settings – Using the family sharing “screen time for family” feature allows you to block or limit specific apps on your child’s Apple devices. Similar options are available for Google devices under Google Play. Adjusting the parental control settings on your wireless router is another way to protect your child online. Lastly utilizing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on all devices creates a safer, more secure, and private online environment.
3.Apps to Download – We recommend two apps, Life 360 and Bark. Life 360 is a location sharing app and BARK is a parental monitoring app both were very well created, are user friendly and provide valuable information.
Talk to your kids about the difference between real friends and online friends. Educate them on what predators are looking for and that posting all their teenage feelings on the internet puts them at risk. We know the internet changes every single day and is nearly impossible to stay on top of, but if your child is using a new app or new game ask them to teach you about it. Learn how they are using it and set boundaries around their online habits.
Tactic #4 – Recognize the Signs of Trafficking
Understanding what indicators and flags are likely to be present if your child is being groomed by a trafficker will give you the edge up in protecting them. The following indicators are what you should be looking out for:
-A sudden change in behavior or appearance. While this may not indicate trafficking it often indicates something such as abuse, depression or bullying and should be addressed.
-Dropping out of sports or other school activities the young person previously enjoyed.
-Unexplained cash, jewelry, nice clothing, or other expensive gifts.
-Alienating friends and family.
-Possession of a fake ID.
-Uncharacteristic promiscuous behavior or references in-person or on social media to sexual situations.
-References to modeling jobs, a role in a music video or an older boyfriend.
-Sudden or frequent missed school days or a drastic drop in grades.
Trafficking is complex and every predator has their own unique style of manipulation and control. If you would like to learn more about how trafficking works and other red flags to look for, check out Guardian Group’s Community Training.
Tactic #5 – Avoid Ultimatums
If your child is already in a relationship and you have concerns about this person’s motive avoid using ultimatums to change your child’s behavior. Traffickers look for problems they can solve and ways they can connect with a potential victim, an ultimatum from a parent creates the perfect opportunity for this. If you say, “You need to stop seeing him or I’ll take away your phone.” This allows the trafficker to step in and solve a problem, “Don’t worry I’ll get you a new phone that your parents don’t have to know about.”
Ultimatums can be extremely dangerous when it comes to potential trafficking situations.
Do not assume that this crime will not touch your family in some way. No one is immune from this.
If you believe your child may already be in the sights of a trafficker, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.