Ashden Brooke Robinson: undergraduate student: B.S. majoring in Criminal Justice, University of Missouri Saint Louis (UMSL); Gateway Human Trafficking Intern.
How would you feel if I told you that your child or grandchild was at risk for human trafficking just by using social media?
The main way to recruit youths for human sex trafficking is through social media. “About 65% of underage victims recruited online in 2020 active criminal sex trafficking cases were recruited through Facebook, while 14% were recruited through Instagram, and 8% were recruited through Snapchat.” (2021) Youths are more likely to be active on social media which is why we see an increase in youth human trafficking. Some of these traffickers may disguise themselves as someone else. This is known as catfishing; when someone pretends to be someone they are not. It is a great strategy used by human traffickers to manipulate victims, especially children. Catfishing is easier to accomplish on social media versus real life.
Adults including women and men are also sold on social media, which makes it difficult to track these victims. Traffickers will often transfer money via bitcoin or some other forms of currency so it is untraceable. The dark web is a hot spot for men and women to buy human trafficking victims. The dark web is a form of social media that is not accessible to the average person, where these men and women (so-called buyers) bid on the victim. They then exchange the currency using social media. Youths are particularly more vulnerable because of their age and immaturity. They are not always able to recognize a real profile from a fake profile, so while they may think they are talking to a 16 year old boy, in reality, it may be a 40 year old man. Traffickers also like to target youths because of their vulnerability.
Watching your children on social media is so important. Plan on establishing a good relationship with your children, be their friends, and ask them to tell you if a stranger tried to be their friend on social media. More importantly, let your children know that they are not in trouble in these types of situations and you will be there for them, to help and protect them.
- Sex traffickers lure more and more teens on social media. Times of Malta. (2021, August 11). Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/Sex-traffickers-lure-more-and-more-teens-on-social-media.592507
- On-ramps, intersections, and exit routes – polaris project. (2018, July). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://polarisproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/A-Roadmap-for-Systems-and-Industries-to-Prevent-and-Disrupt-Human-Trafficking-Social-Media.pdf