“Heyy thanks for adding me your very pretty would you be interested in a job making easy money.”
“hey sexy how you doing im rico…i just wanna say you sexy and I will love for you to come get this money with me i see a lot of potential in you.”
“What up Bri? Call me soon as u get this love so we can chop it up and get better acquainted..”
“I LOVE trapping on the weekends. #$Money Making Mission.”
These are some facebook status updates and messages taken from court documents, showing how pimps recruited girls into prostitution by making initial contact online.
A couple years I met a girl in the Oakville area who had accepted a friend request on facebook from some “cute older guys.” They told her they could hook her up with alcohol and get her into all the parties. She was in high school at the time, and had no idea these older boys were traffickers on a mission to recruit. As the relationship developed, she was gradually groomed into prostitution. (I recently came across a similar story online – you can listen to Nina’s story here).
This is happening all over the world. In Indonesia, 27 of the 129 children reported missing to its National Commission for Child Protection are believed to have been abducted after meeting their captors on Facebook. The internet has no cultural or socio-economic boundaries. While many trafficking victims have traditionally been lured or abducted from marginalized or impoverished communities, the internet has opened up the playing field to include middle and even upper class homes. Teenagers and children are curious and hungry for compliments regardless of socioeconomic status, and traffickers can easily access them via facebook, twitter, and texting at all hours of the day.
For parents, this is a poses a real challenge. Cell phones, the very thing that parents often want their kids to have for safety purposes, may be the tool that undermines their safety in the worst way. Social media, which is supposed foster good relationships, sometimes acts as a breeding ground for toxic ones instead. So what’s a parent to do?
The FBI has identified some warning signs that your child may be at-risk online:
- Your child spends large amounts of time on-line or texting, especially at night
- You find pornography on your child’s computer/phone
- Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize
- Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know
- Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room
- Your child becomes withdrawn from the family
- Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else
Here is a list of tips for parents regarding internet safety that could be quite helpful. Instruct your children:
- to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line
- to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know
- to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number
- to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images
- to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing
- that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true
The most powerful way to traffic-proof your child is to have a strong relationship with them. This starts at the youngest of ages. Maybe it’s time to make regular family dinner a bigger priority. Or to get a new job that allows for more quality time with your kids.
Investing into your kids when they are young can pave the way for a healthy relationship when they are teenagers, and that is a challenging hurdle for pimps to overcome.