8 things you can do to protect your kids from sex trafficking

Note: We do not receive any benefits or funding from any of the sources we recommend below. These are simply the resources we recommend to help you keep your family safe from traffickers. 

1. Monitor your kids online accounts, activity & friends

You are the parent. Monitor your children’s social media accounts, look for ways to meet their friends, their friends’ parents and those they hang out with. Ask their friends or their friend’s parents if you don’t feel like you’re getting the truth from your child. Be alert to boyfriends who are much older, or friendships that tend to isolate your child from other friends or family. Notice if your child has new clothing items, makeup products, cell phone or other items and inquire about how they acquired them. iParent.tv is one of our favorite resources for parents to learn about dangerous apps, social media and websites. We strongly recommend using parental controls and filtering programs such as one of the below:

2. Set a high standard of “love” within your home

The way you define and express love shapes your children’s self-image, confidence and opinions of future relationships. Work hard to cultivate an environment of love and acceptance in your home and family. Help them distinguish between real love and empty promises or cheap gifts. You (mom and dad) will undoubtedly play a huge role in your child's self-image. Build them up, encourage them, and help them to be confident in who they are. 

3. Make your home a safe place

Don’t be so strict with your kids that they don’t feel comfortable coming to you when someone approached them online or in public, or if something ‘embarrassing’ happened. They have to feel comfortable and safe with you in order for them to open up and share. The safest place to do this is in the home. Talk to them early and often about the tough topics, including appropriate relationships and body safety. Here are a few great resources to check out:

It should go without saying, but your kids should not have access to any pornographic content in your house. Whether that be magazines, movies, TV channels, or Internet sites. As the parent, your responsibility is to model healthy behavior as well as limit access to outlets that may fuel negative behaviors. Here are some great articles: 
Parents As Digital Role Models for their Children 
Smartphone Etiquette Guide For Kids At Night 

4. Protect your family by being careful what media you consume

Be mindful of the TV shows, movies, games and music your children consume. It's important to recognize that the media we consume is driving a hyper-sexualized and violent culture and most of us have become numb to it. We recommend turning on strict TV program settings and Internet filters. Don't allow your children unlimited access to TV, Internet and smart devices (phones, laptops, tablets, gaming systems). 

5. Disable geotagging on your smart devices

Did you know that every photo you take with your smart device stores a GPS coordinate? Geotagging comes as a Camera app feature that is available on almost all smartphones. It will add the current location where the photos are taken along with data and time stamps and embed it within the photo. This, combined with the ability to share photos online so easily, can result a huge privacy breach. How to disable this feature:

- iPhone: Open Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Scroll down to Camera and select "Never" or turn off
- Android: Open the Camera > Tap on Settings > Scroll down until you see Geo/Location tags > Disable it
- Windows: Open Settings > Swipe from the right screen to the left to open application settings > Scroll down until you see a settings entry for photos + camera > Uncheck "include location info in pictures I take"

6. Talk to your kids about trafficking, pornography and sexual abuse

That's right. You need to talk to your kids about these tough issues. They're either going to learn it from you or from someone else - and it may not be who or where you wanted them to learn about these things. Here are some great articles and resources:
- Talking to your kids about touchy subjects by Craig Gross
- How to Talk to Your Children About Human Trafficking by TrustAZ.org
- Conversation with my Daughter About Human Trafficking 
- How to talk to your kids about sexual abuse by Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept

NetSmartz is one of our favorite FREE tools for parents produced by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. They have specific talking points and conversation starters for parents on topics including cyber bullying, sexting, social media, gaming and more. In addition, they provide free presentations and relevant videos with real-life stories that you can use to talk to your kids about these things.

7. Involve your local schools

Most states (including Texas) do not mandate human trafficking training for educators nor is it a required topic for students on any grade level. This must change. Talk to your school. Invite your PTA or parent group to host an awareness night to learn about human trafficking and how you can keep your kids safe. You should also ask your school to provide awareness and prevention programming to the students. 

Traps is Traffick911's interactive youth program designed to equip youth and parents to avoid the tricks, traps and lures of traffickers. The program is geared toward ages 12-18 and is also adapted and presented to PTA's and parent groups. If you are in Traffick911's service area (see where we currently work), you can request a parent and/or student presentation. If you're an educator, you can request a professional staff training, too.

Hooked: Porn's Hold on the Brain is Traffick911's educational session on the neuroscience of pornography. A curation of nationally recognized research and videos from leading organizations, Hooked helps young people, men and women recognize that pornography is not a victimless indulgence. People are harmed on both sides of the screen.

- If you are outside our service area, do some research to find a local organization working to fight human trafficking.
NetSmartz has a great program for educators that can be used for free. 
- iEmpathize.org has a very savvy and relevant teen prevention program specifically addressing trafficking called Empower that can be licensed for a single use or professional use within youth settings.

8. Know where your kids are going and who they’re with

No, we're not talking about stranger danger. Despite sensational media coverage, stranger abductions are extremely rare. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, only 115 children per year in this country are victims of “stereotypical” kidnappings, where a stranger takes a child to keep or harm him. Young children are less likely to be targeted by strangers than teenagers. Nevertheless, it's still important to know where your kids are and who they're with.

This seems like a no-brainer, but has your child ever caught a ride home from school or an event with someone you've never met? Perhaps a friend's parent or older sibling? Be cautious about letting them spend the night with someone (or go over to someone's house) whose parents you've never met or had very limited interaction with. Please also remember that many young people first get sexually abused by a family member, relative or family friend - just because you may know them doesn't mean it's safe to leave your kid alone with them.

Malls, movie theaters, bus stops and parties are common places for traffickers and recruiters to hang out and prey on victims because kids are often at these places unaccompanied.