Social Media has become a staple in almost everyone’s life. In fact, in 2021, there were 4.48 billion social media users around the world! While this number can make us feel like we all are connected and have something in common, the reality is there were 4.48 billion chances for dangerous relationships to develop on social media.
Many of us understand that the majority of human trafficking survivors, particularly minors, were first targeted and then groomed via social media. Therefore, in a world where even very young children have phones and access to the internet, what can parents do to protect them from predators?
Follow our four tips for social media safety, then visit lighthouseforlife.org to learn more about human trafficking and find additional resources to help equip and educate you on how to protect your kids.
Tips for Social Media Safety:
It has become the norm for people to share their locations in social media posts. Doing so lets the entire world pinpoint where they can find you. We encourage people to share fun vacation photos or even where they’ve been hanging out with friends, but only after they are no longer in that location. Avoid real-time posts.
Be conscious of sharing “emotional ammo.” Teens in particular tend to share whatever comes to mind like “my parents are the worst” or “not feeling pretty today,” both of which reveal insecurities and alert predators. Just because you think it doesn’t mean you should share it.
Anyone with a vulnerability can be targeted by a predator, and everyone has vulnerabilities. A few easy targets for predators are those who come from broken families, have broken hearts, need money, or project low self-esteem.
If parents aren’t engaged in minimizing their children’s vulnerabilities, predators will fill that vacuum.
Child predators have perfected disguises to lure vulnerable teens into trusting them:
- The Pretender: One who pretends to be something they are not, such as a boyfriend, a big sister, a father, etc.
- The Provider: One who offers to take care of essential needs for them such as clothing, food, a place to live. They may even draw them in with their desires for things like a new cell phone, expensive purses, parties, etc.
- The Promiser: One who promises access to great things such as an amazing job, a glamorous lifestyle, traveling, etc.
- The Protector: One who uses physical power or intimidation to protect (but also control) their victim.
- The Punisher: One who uses threats and violence to control their victim.
Any new relationship your child has engaged in should be approached with caution and with the support of those you already trust.
4. Be a safe adult a child or teen can talk to.
Whether a parent, grandparent, youth leader, teacher, coach, or mentor, you can make a difference in a child’s life by being someone they can trust, especially when they discover they have stepped in over their head into a relationship that’s not what they thought it would be.