CHARLESTON S.C. (WCBD) – According to national numbers, sexual exploitation at an all-time high. Human trafficking in the United Sates generating an estimated yearly profit of $32 billion.
Children are the most vulnerable to this threat, with the internet providing a platform for predators to hide behind an electronic device while talking directly to your child.
Darkness to Light, a nationwide, grassroots non-profit organization (based in the Charleston, S.C.) is working to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation and shares tips to keep you children protected while online.
The world is at your child’s fingertips through video games, social media accounts, and texting. Therefore, so is the threat for online exploitation and abuse from predators.
“Cyber-crimes against children are a threat to children across the country. They are most certainly a threat to our children here in the Lowcountry. It really takes parents being proactive and educating children on safety when they are online,” Erika Rowell, Director of Programs at Darkness to Light, said.
It only takes eight minutes for a predator to form a bond with a child online. What your child may think is a harmless conversation or friend request from another kid their age, could be a sexual predator preying from behind an electronic device.
“People that want to harm children online can recognize vulnerabilities, so they are going to build a relationship with your child online and they might be posing as a younger youth. They might be trying to match your child’s age,” Rowell said.
Darkness to light says that there are several to minimize the risk of children being exploited online and it all begins with a conversation.
“Parents need to be talking about internet safety all of the time. It’s not a one-time conversation. You don’t talk to your child about crossing the road just once. You talk to them about looking both ways on a constant basis, so we need to be having those conversations on an on-going basis,” Rowell said.
They suggest watching out for online versions of video games that give your child the potential to chat with anyone around the world while gaming.
“Perpetrators will try to draw a child in by saying, ‘If you send me an image of yourself, I’ll give you the secret to winning this level.’ So, they are trying to bribe the child with things that they are interested in,” Rowell said.
They say that if your child has social media account, then you should too.
“As a parent you also need to make sure that you are friends with your children on social media. So, you can see what they are posting, they can see what you are posting, and everyone is on the same field,” Rowell said.
If you suspect that your child is a victim of abuse on the internet, reach out to law enforcement immediately.
For more resources on keeping your kids & teens safe online, click here. https://www.d2l.org/