Teen sex trafficking primarily involves exploitation which comes in many forms and can be enforced by people who look just like you and me. From forcing victims into prostitution to subjecting them to involuntary slavery, teen sex trafficking is real.
Teen sex trafficking is a plague on modern society. Millions of teens and children around the world are trafficked or trapped in sexual exploitation with little hope for freedom.
Teen Sex Trafficking
Teen sex trafficking is a global epidemic of incomprehensible proportions. Many Americans assume that because it’s not happening on their doorsteps that it is not a real problem. On the contrary, it is estimated that every year up to 300,000 Americans under the age of 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade and unfortunately, in the United States, that number increases every year.
While most of these victims are youths who live on the streets or runaways, other teens and children are recruited into trafficking rings or lured into prostitution through forced abduction.
The Internet is a massive playground for sex traffickers to solicit, buy, sell, and arrange sex with minors. The commonness of classified advertisement sites such as Craigslist and popular social media sites, make it simple for sex traffickers to lure vulnerable teens. Most often, with promises of modeling jobs, romance, access to drugs and alcohol.
Backpage and its affiliated sites are also classified advertisement sites known to be used for human trafficking across the country. These sites were shut down by the FBI in April 2018. Backpage.com is a website many law enforcement agencies have used to recover trafficking victims.
What You Can Do To Keep Your Teen Safe
As alarming as the above statistics are, there are things that parents can do to greatly reduce the susceptibility of their teenagers. Traffickers target the most uninformed and vulnerable. It’s critical that we educate our children on how to protect themselves.
- Monitor social media accounts – Many traffickers and their recruiters find their victims through visual social media sites such as Instagram. Photos that may seem innocent to your teen can often attract the attention of sext trafficking recruiters. Many teens don’t want restrictions on their account such as making it private because it prohibits them from freely engaging with their friends and friends of friends. So, if making their account private is not an option, make sure you check the settings on each app and have deep discussions with your kids about online safety.
- Make sure your teen travels in groups and practices stranger awareness – Teenagers, especially girls, who are traveling teen tourists, are alone at movie theaters, malls, etc., are easy prey for traffickers. Teach them to be aware of their surroundings and any person whose behavior (following, staring, etc) seems suspicious. Coach them how to ask for help.
- Have a secret code only you and your teen know – For example, saying or texting 888 means “I’m not okay!”. Teens may have gone willingly to meet someone they thought they knew on social media, and realized they’re in a dangerous situation. If they still have their phone, they can use this code without alarming the recruiter or to get out of any unsettling situation.
- Explain what human trafficking is – The hottest commodity for traffickers are children between the ages of 8 and 14. At earlier ages, this may mean educating kids about going anywhere with strangers and having shared credentials to your child’s phone so that you can regularly check their online interactions. As they get older, deeper discussions are needed including talks about sex trafficking, protecting themselves both online and off, and personal safety.
- Advise your kids to watch their drinks – High school parties are prime events trafficking recruiters infiltrate and attempt to drug their victims. Encourage your teens to never leave a beverage or food unattended.
- Consider tracking – Consider installing a location services app from your mobile phone carrier or GPS tracking. While many newer model cars come equipped with GPS tracking nowadays, if your teen’s car doesn’t have one, consider installing it so you can locate them if needed.
How You Can Help Stop Teen Sex Trafficking
Our good friend Kourtney Sellers traveled to Thailand and Cambodia this past May and was heartbroken by how easily accessible this tragedy has become. Spending two weeks with the Destiny Rescue Organization, they saw firsthand the process of trafficking and what victims are subjected to.
Kourtney started a fundraiser to raise money for a worthy cause that doesn’t just affect children in Thailand or Cambodia, but also children in the United States between the ages of 12 and 14. These children are most at risk of becoming victims in California alone. VIP House of Hair has made a generous donation to do our part in stopping teen sex trafficking. Now it’s your turn. Click the button below to be a part of the campaign!
To report a tip or connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, call 1-800-843-5678.