Starting the Conversation About Human Trafficking: Keeping Children Safe
Your young child is so innocent. As a parent or guardian, you’ve done everything to keep them safe and teach them safety measures. For example, you’ve made sure they know how dangerous it is to play with matches, ride their bike without a helmet, or not wear their seatbelt in a moving vehicle. However, you might not have included human trafficking awareness in your safety lessons.
It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to talk about a topic that is almost too horrific to imagine: that your child — or any child — might be at risk for such a horrendous situation. It can be overwhelming to discuss a scary and difficult issue. But unfortunately, human trafficking happens far more frequently than you might think.
Sadly, human trafficking is not a rare problem in the world. It’s not even rare in the United States, where more than 11,000 people were reported trafficked in 2019. Globally, the impact is even more significant, with estimates as high as more than 40 million victims.
Most people associate human trafficking with forced labor or sex work. But modern-day slavery also includes domestic servitude, bonded labor, child labor, and forced marriage.
How can you warn children of the dangers of human trafficking without terrifying them and making them feel like they can’t trust anyone?
The First Step Is Awareness
Before starting the conversation about human trafficking, learn as much as possible. It’s hard to talk about something you don’t know much about, and learning about an issue shows your child that you care.
Being aware of the kinds of situations children are forced into can help you recognize when something might not seem right with a child in your community. There are many myths about human trafficking. For example, while you might assume that only strangers target children for trafficking purposes, family friends, extended family members, and even parents can be the perpetrators.
Several organizations working to stop human trafficking provide resources to help educate parents, guardians, and educators about human trafficking. For example, survivor stories from the Orphan’s Hands help people understand the situation, and Polaris Project offers many resources.
How To Talk About Human Trafficking
Have candid, age-appropriate discussions with your child about what human trafficking is. For a young child, this might mean talking about the importance of not having relationships — online or in real life — with strangers. But, with teens, you can probably go more in-depth to help them understand the dangers they face.
For example, explain why it’s essential for your child to carefully consider what information they share online, such as their school name and home address. But it might also extend to less obvious information, like tweets or posts about negative emotions, as traffickers may assume that a child who frequently vents online is an easy target. Remind them that they can come to you or another trusted adult if they feel threatened or need emotional support.
Nine Key Messages To Share With Kids Recommended by UNICEF
1. Educate yourself on the issue, and learn the signs of a trafficked victim.
2. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know on social media. Traffickers commonly use sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to lure their victims.
3. Be aware of how traffickers recruit people and pay attention to your surroundings.
4. Don’t reveal too much about yourself (i.e., your full name, address, school, or living situation) to people you don’t know, whether on your social media sites or in person, no matter how friendly the person may be.
5. Never agree to meet someone you don’t know without first consulting a trusted adult (i.e., parent, teacher, guidance counselor).
6. If you feel uncomfortable or are hesitant about a situation, confide in an adult who can help you make the best choices.
7. Deciding to leave a situation or relationship where you feel unsafe or are being harmed or threatened can be complex and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, counselor, or youth worker.
8. If you are in immediate danger or are being physically harmed, call 911 for help.
9. If running away from home, try to find a safe place to go or call the runaway switchboard at 1-800-Runaway.
If you suspect someone might be at risk of human trafficking, you can call 888-373-7888 to reach the National Human Trafficking Hotline, available 24 hours a day in more than 200 languages. You can also report an incident to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline.
Providing monetary or volunteer support to organizations like The Orphan’s Hands can also help remove children from trafficking. Regardless of how you choose to participate in this cause, simply taking just a few moments to spread human trafficking awareness with the families in your community can make a huge difference in a child’s life.
Everyone Can Help Fight Human Trafficking
No matter how small, every effort can make a difference in the fight against human trafficking. The generosity of our supporters has helped us provide a safe life for young people once trapped in a life of human slavery and provide shelter, food, and medical care for those in need. Every donation helps deliver hope!
Together, we can change and save lives.