The average age of a child that is trafficked is 12 - here's what you can do to help prevent it
Jan Edwards is the CEO of Paving the Way, an organisation in the US committed to disrupting the cycle of child trafficking around the world through awareness, education and empowerment. She has spoken to thousands on trafficking and how to prevent it. She is the writer/producer of the award winning film, Trapped in the Trade. On Missing Children Day, here are her tips to prevent child trafficking:
Know the facts
1,278 children were reported to be victims of sexual exploitation in 2016. Children from all walks of life are intentionally targeted and recruited. Child trafficking knows no socio, economic, and demographic boundaries. For those who think their children are immune or it won’t happen to them, think again. A friend’s daughter was invited to a party by one of the ‘popular’ kids, all she remembers is walking into the club and waking up the next day. She still has nightmares.
Learn the signs
Pimps, profiteers and predators are expert manipulators. They know how to hone in on a child’s insecurity, starting with recruitment. A recruiter will establish rapport quickly; profess undying love, insists the relationship stay a ‘secret’. From an outsider’s point of view, look for unexplained gifts or money, new behaviour toward parents or friends or missing school often.
This is the number one tip. Being a teen has its challenges. Trying to fit in, finding a passion or purpose can be exhausting. Spend time with your kids. Know what they love, their passions, who their friends are and where they spend their time. If they are a gamer, learn about Xbox. Got a music lover in the family? Attend concerts together. Bottom line: talk to each other and build a close relationship. By following this tip, you can avoid a break in trust and create open communication.
The role of social media
Infringement on privacy is a heated issue. I am not saying be a helicopter parent, as that can erode trust. What I am suggesting is to be responsible for your child’s safety. Follow them on social media, get updates on their posts and know who they are friends with online. Limit their time and teach online responsibility. All a child needs to do is complain and online predators will jump in with an empathic ear. They befriend them and begin to build a wedge between your child and you. Social media is not going away; learn how to use it and to be wary of any ‘new’ friend request.
Human trafficking is a growing issue in the UK. According to the National Crime Agency, it has increased 78%, since 2015 to 3,800 reported incidences. Children make up 30% of that number. There are several types of child trafficking including labour & sexual exploitation, organ harvesting and domestic servitude. Most of which is hidden in plain sight.
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We spend hours on our phones, laptops and other devices – just look around any tube carriage. We don’t look at each other, let alone talk to one another. My tip is: heads up, eyes open. You might see a young girl improperly dressed for the weather with a visibly older man, with sorrow and fear in her eyes. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t look right or feel right, make the call. You could save a life.
Take an action
Share this information with your friends and family. Have a conversation with your kids, nieces or siblings. Talk with them about human trafficking and learn more about it together. Lastly, if you see something, DO something. Put this number in your phone, it’s the Modern Slavery Hotline at 08000 121 700. You can call 24/7 and all calls are anonymous.