Talk to your Kids
Open communication is an important part of keeping your kids safe from traffickers. Maintaining an open relationship with your child that emphasizes trust and safety is important to establish from a young age. Children need to know that there will never be anything that they should feel scared to tell their parents about, even if they have done wrong, and this message must be reiterated over the child’s life. Many times sexual abuse and exploitation occur without loved one’s knowledge because a child or teen is too scared to talk to their parents about it. This may be because they don’t want to hurt, frighten, or disappoint, or because the abuser has threatened to harm the child and their loved ones if they tell. Parent’s need to teach children that there should never be any scary secrets (a secret they are afraid to share) only happy secrets (a surprise gift or party). Teens need to know that they can always call their parents if they need help or feel unsafe, even if they are in a situation where illicit activities are going on such as alcohol or drug use.
It is up to parents to share safe physical touch practices as well, teaching kids at a young age where it is appropriate to touch and be touched and where it isn’t. Children should be taught what to do if someone touches them inappropriately, once again reiterating that parents won’t get mad or disappointed if this happens. Children should know how to call 911 if they feel unsafe, and to use their voices VERY LOUD to yell and scream if someone tries to touch them inappropriately, even if that person is a family member.
Parent’s can establish open communication with children and teens by sharing age-appropriate stories from their own life that emphasize the importance of open communication with safe adults. Teens who have never talked to their parents about sex, or believe that their parents are perfect and wouldn’t understand a situation, are not likely to come to the parent if they feel tempted, at risk, or pressured into a sexual situation. Open up about hard situations and topics; it could save your child’s life!
Good Questions to Ask Your Child or Teen:
“Do you think slavery still exists today?”
“Do you know what trafficking is?”
“Has anyone ever asked you to send a picture of yourself online"?”
“Do you know what sexting is?”
“Do you feel safe enough to talk with me about anything?”
“Has anyone ever talked to you about making money on dates?”
“What would you do if someone told you to do something that made you feel uncomfortable?”
“Do you think there is anything you could do to make me love you less?”
Know where your kids are:
Knowing where your kids and teens are at all times can literally save their lives. Apps and services provided by cell phone companies can help track your child’s location, alert you when they have arrived at a location safely, and some can even monitor for inappropriate behavior like sexting. Learn more about available apps here! As always, parents should be very open about why they are putting a tracking app on a phone and the importance of it. This should never be done in secret or in punishment for a child acting out but always with open communication about the schemes of traffickers, and the need for knowing where they are going and who they are hanging out with in order to keep the child safe.
Monitor Online Activity
Talk openly with both girls and boys about the dangers of chat rooms, websites, and social media. Not only do predators use these sites to contact and engage with underage kids and teens, but unintentional early exposure to pornographic sites is an increased risk for kids who grow up using technology unsupervised. Keeping all technology, including cell phone and computer use, restricted to the main home areas can help parents monitor online activity. Using a filter services can also help parents monitor online activity, block pornographic sites, and receive notifications if sexual content is being discussed on chat rooms. Click here to learn about filters to monitor online activity.
know the warning signs
Knowing the warning signs of sexual exploitation and trauma can help identify a child or teen who is at-risk for being trafficked. Often, teens who get lured into trafficking and prostitution have a background of some sort of abuse or trauma. Traffickers can present themselves as a loving boyfriend to a teen who may be lonely, insecure, or one who feels broken or used from a traumatic event. Parents, teachers, and authority figures need to watch for signs of change in children and teens that may signify some sort of exploitation. If signs of change are noticed, parents need to proactively ask children and teens if anything has happened that has caused them pain, and to seek the help of professional counselors and the police immediately if it has.
basic safety tips for teens and children
Check if Your Child is
Making calls to unknown numbers
Receiving gifts through the mail
Turning away from friends and family
Spending a lot of time online
Getting upset when he or she can’t get online
Minimizing the screen or turning off the monitor when you come into the room
Teaching Basic Safety Rules
Check first (ask an adult before you do it).
Take a friend (when going places).
Tell someone “NO” (it’s okay to tell an adult no).
Tell your parents, guardians, or other trusted adults if anything makes you sad, scared or confused.
If anyone tries to hurt you or force you to do something you don’t want to do, fight back with biting, scratching, and kicking.
Memorize your address and the phone numbers of parents and safe adults.
Know when and how to call 911.
Never talk to someone online without talking to your parents about it first.
Don’t listen to someone who threatens you or your family in order to keep a “scary secret,” tell your parents or a safe adult.
If you would like more information on JOY International hosting a self-defense and child safety course in your town, contact us!