Child Sex Traffickers Use Online Apps to Lure Children

ashleigh diserio.png

If you think your child is safe from sex trafficking - think again! The internet has made it easier for children to be bought and sold online. If your child is using a mobile application, they are at increased risk of coming in contact with sex traffickers. 

Sex trafficking is defined as the illegal business of recruiting, harboring, transporting, obtaining or providing a person for the purpose of sex. It is a form of modern slavery.

The Polaris Project states that, "Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to get children to engage in sex acts against their will. Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion."

Traffickers are experts at using mobile applications to find and lure children into sex trafficking rings, and this is where children spend the majority of their time. Sex traffickers have access to commonly used apps such as WeChat, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, online games, Whisper, YikYak, Facebook, and many others. Children have a false belief that these apps are safe and they may make friends with strangers who have nefarious intentions. Children often "over-share" personal information that helps traffickers find common interests with the child which starts the grooming process. These apps might be contributing to the spike in child sex trafficking. Children are using these apps to talk with "friends," and they are coming up missing. Communication through these applications is making it difficult for law enforcement to detect and track the sex trafficking rings. 

The lure into sex trafficking comes in various forms. Some traffickers place ads to find victims usually through a job type post. These jobs could be for such positions as models, escorts, reality TV stars, or dancers. The posts could also advertise "cash only jobs," or have wording similar to "for one day, earn a minimum $500." These jobs come with deception and false promises. Other traffickers spend time cultivating relationships with children. They come in acting as a friend who has something in common with the child. A relationship develops, and they can recruit, groom, and sell the child sex trafficking victim. Solicitation happens over time. Lastly, victims might become romantically involved with someone they meet online who then forces or manipulates them into prostitution. 

Parents can put safeguards on their internet and cellular devices, but that is not enough. It is imperative parents and guardians talk with children about what apps they are using and about sex trafficking. Don't be afraid to address the topic with children. They need to know that these innocent looking applications can lead to them becoming victims in sex trafficking rings. 

If you are looking for more information on child sex trafficking or ways to address this issue with children, contact Ashleigh Diserio Consulting for more tips or to learn about our training which can be brought to schools and other community groups.