Summertime Digital Safety Tips for Parents

Most kids look forward to summer break. For many, it’s a time for family fun, vacations, swimming, etc., but it also leaves room for kids to spend more time on their digital devices.

According to UNICEF, “Some 80% of children in 25 countries report feeling in danger of sexual abuse or exploitation online. As children embrace more digital platforms, they too may self-generate sexually explicit imagery. And though these images might be intended for an age-appropriate relationship, they can end up widely shared without consent. Sometimes, trusted adults solicit children to share imagery. For a child victim, this may result in social isolation, mental health issues, substance abuse, self-harm or suicide, as well as an increased likelihood of exhibiting abusive behaviors themselves in adulthood.”

There are ways you can help set boundaries in an effort to keep kids safe. Here are a few examples:

  • Set some ground rules for internet usage. Examples of this could include: never posting personal information such as addresses or phone numbers on social media channels, use secure passwords for any digital logins and keep them secure, do not use location check-ins or geo-tagging as it could identify places you frequent when you are away from home.
  • Be open and honest. It’s important for kids to understand that nothing is truly anonymous or temporary. A lot of social media or chat apps have these features, but pictures and text sent this way can still be used by people with bad intentions.
  • Use parental controls when needed. Even for the most educated and tech-savvy kids, parental controls may still be a good option to ensure parents can keep an eye on things or add extra protection to apps that may be questionable.

In an article from BlueCross BlueShield, “The National Cyber Security Alliance offers this general recommendation about making online safety a priority: Don’t let concerns about what might go wrong stand in the way of letting your family explore the vast virtual world. If we, the adults, are educated about risks and employ smart monitoring tools, our kids will be more likely to use technology safely and come to us for advice if they run into anything.”

One helpful tool for all families is a checklist, developed by the Family Online Safety Institute, that can help digital users think about what their posting, and how it will reflect upon them. The checklist can be found here.

Overall, it’s important to implement boundaries and have honest conversations with children and young adults about the do’s and don’ts of social media and internet safety.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Did you know that on a global scale, human trafficking profits are an estimated $150 BILLION per year? Of that, approximately $99 billion comes strictly from sex exploitation.

Incidents of human trafficking are widely underreported, so getting exact statistics can be challenging. According to the Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to ending human trafficking, “In 2018, Polaris worked on 10,949 cases of human trafficking reported to the Polaris-operated U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. These cases involved 23,078 individual survivors; nearly 5,859 potential traffickers and 1,905 trafficking businesses. Human trafficking is notoriously underreported. Shocking as these numbers are, they are likely only a fraction of the actual problem.”

There are many myths surrounding human trafficking and what it really is. By definition, “human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”

One of the biggest myths is the belief that trafficking involves the transport of an individual or group of individuals from one place to another, or across state or international borders. Human trafficking can happen all within the boundaries of a victim’s state, city, neighborhood, or even in their own home.

Recognizing the signs of a victim in a human trafficking situation isn’t always easy either. A few distinguishable signs of a trafficked individual are: works long hours or maintains an unusual schedule, they are unpaid, paid very little or only receive payment through tips, they are not given breaks, they seem anxious/paranoid, they show signs of poor health or hygiene, they aren’t in control of their own money or finances, and they often have very limited personal possessions.

Human trafficking victims come from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities, and personal circumstances. There are, however, certain things that make certain people more susceptible to being lured into a trafficking situation. For example, runway or homeless youth, people that have experienced previous traumas (such as domestic abuse or sexual assault), and members of the LGBTQ community are just a few groups identified as more at-risk for getting recruited into a human trafficking situation.

Victims of trafficking are recruited a number of ways. One of most common ways younger victims come in contact with a trafficker is through social media, parties, and popular locations like the mall or shopping centers. Another tactic used is the promise of romantic relationships. The trafficker will engage in a romantic or physical relationship with the victim and then force them into commercial sex. Other commonly used methods are online ads looking for “models,” the promise of wealth and financial security, and by having their current victims recruit their friends or acquaintances.

If you would like to learn more about human trafficking, or find out what you can do to help, please visit any of these online resources:
-PACT (Parents Against Child Trafficking):
-Polaris Project: