In the last few decades, social media has made itself a regular part of life for many people. There are many different platforms catered to different purposes, interests and generations. Whether your interests are video games, memes, politics or even genuinely stoked goats (yes, that is a real Facebook page), there is a social media landscape perfect for you. Even the interests of human traffickers are met through social media. Social media has provided a recruiting and trapping tool for human traffickers to use at alarmingly high rates, and parents must be vigilant to keep young boys and girls safe while using the platform.
With the technology advancement new generations have known since birth, children are using social media platforms as early as their elementary school years, but especially in teenage years. A recent study showed that of kids aged 13 to 17, over 70 percent of them used social media multiple times a day (Withers, 2019). As a Millennial, I joined Facebook in 8th grade, but Gen-Z is exposed to these apps at a much earlier age. This means that they are accessible to dangerous persons like human traffickers if the proper guidance and monitoring by parents does not take place. In a recent three-year period, the National Human Trafficking Hotline documented almost 1,000 cases of potential victims of sex trafficking alone who were recruited through internet platforms (Withers, 2019).
So, how can you protect your children while still letting them enjoy the social media platforms rising in popularity? According to Moms.com (Sayers, 2019), here are a few ways you can monitor your child’s social media usage in a manner that respects their privacy and dignity:
Have the Conversation
No, not that conversation (although, that should take place eventually as well). Have a conversation with your child about the dangers social media can possess BEFORE you allow them to create their own accounts. Just like letting them drive, you wouldn’t let them get behind the wheel without having the proper education and supervision. Setting expectations from the beginning is the best way to ensure they’ll keep themselves safe on social media their entire lives. It’s never too late, however, to have this conversation. Even if your child is already on social media, it is good to remind them of the risks and discuss how they keep themselves safe.
Friend Request: Accepted
Be sure you are friends with or following your child on social media. While this doesn’t help you see what is being sent to them, it does show you what they are posting and if their content is opening them up to any possible harm. Be warned: you might be met with some “Ugh Mom, I don’t want you to see what I post!” In the end, this is the best incentive for your child and yourself to monitor what they are posting to avoid any inappropriate interactions. Coming from someone who definitely blocked her parents on social media as a teengager, the author of this blog 100% is exposing her own tactics of rebellion. If your child doesn’t want you to see their social media, there is normally a not-so-good reason for that.
Keep it Private
Advise your child to keep their social media accounts private. This guarantees that the only people with access to your child are those they accept as friends or followers. Your child should not accept a friend or follow requests from someone they do not know personally. Even as a private account, your child should still be wary of what they post on social media and who they’re interacting with.
Call for Backup
If you see a need for it, there are multiple apps like KidLogger and WebSafety that you can download to help you monitor your child’s social media usage. You can see what apps they are using, how long they are using them, what they’re using them for and you can even limit the amount of time they can use social media as well. Just remember, it is better in the long-term to teach your child about internet safety so that they can keep themselves away from danger without your help later in life.
Both young boys and young girls are susceptible to danger when on social media. With the right amount of guidance and monitoring from their parents or guardians, however, they can access and use these platforms safely. Be diligent with your child’s social media use and teach them safety skills they can take with them the rest of their lives. Even after childhood, social media is still a dangerous place where traffickers can groom and exploit others. To help end the epidemic of human trafficking, we must win the battle on social media by teaching our children to be smart and safe.
By: Sarah Parkin
Ranch Hands Rescue Social Media Intern
Sayers, Jessica. “10 Ways to Monitor Your Child’s Social Media Use,” Moms, 13 November, 2019, https://www.moms.com/monitor-child-social-media/#:~:text=Encouraging%20open%20communication%20with%20your,saying%20to%20your%20little%20one.
Withers, Melissa. “Social Media Platforms Help Promote Human Trafficking,” Psychology Today, 22 November, 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-day-slavery/201911/social-media-platforms-help-promote-human-trafficking