It can be difficult to talk to children about the dangers of human trafficking. While you want to protect your child, you also don’t want to over-expose them. Here are five talking points to help guide a conversation focused around their safety.
1. Teach About Healthy Relationships
If your children are young, you do not have to give them all the nitty-gritty details of trafficking. First, you can teach them what safe and healthy relationships are. Explain to them what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior from other adults and even other children. This will help them be able to identify when something is off.
Building healthy and communicative relationships with your children is vitally important. By being a safe adult for your children to talk to, you are opening the door to a more trusting relationship. Your children are more likely to come to you first with a problem, rather than feeling misunderstood or turning to others for comfort.
Being someone your child can talk to comfortably will also mean they will be more likely to share with you if someone made them uncomfortable. A core need every human shares is to be seen and heard. If your children know they will receive that from you, they will come to you before going elsewhere.
2. Talk About Safe Practices Online
When your children start to have their own online presence, it is time to talk about safe online practices. With lots of schooling happening virtually, this may come sooner than expected.
Social media and other chat-centered sites and apps are where predators search for people who may be vulnerable. Predators identify a vulnerably or felt-need and they work to fill that need or vulnerability and gain trust. This ultimately leads to exploitation.
These vulnerabilities can be as extreme as addiction, poverty, or a history of physical abuse. It can also be as basic as perceived emotional neglect or wanting someone to listen and understand them.
Set ground rules for online screen time that are appropriate for your family. There are many options for limiting and monitoring screen time, like setting time limits for certain apps, making accounts private, and having a set time for devices to be put away in a separate room. Explore the options available in individual apps and discuss them with your children.
Explain to your children why it is important that you know who they are talking to and what they are doing online. Ensure they know that it is ultimately for their safety.
3. [Not So] Stranger Danger
From a young age we are taught about ‘stranger danger.’ You’ve likely had a conversation with your child about not going with strangers or accepting gifts or candy from people they don’t know. These are good things to teach your children, but there is more to the story.
A scarier truth is that it is not always strangers that are looking to target and exploit children. Traffickers often begin the grooming process by building relationships and gaining trust. However, that relationship does not always start online or even in a public place. Sometimes predators are people with whom children already have an established relationship.
This could be a family friend, coworker, someone from the community, a neighbor, an older classmate, or even another family member. It is a chilling thought, but we have served women and girls exploited by people in these types of relationships.
As your children get older, it will become more and more difficult to know every single person they interact with. That is why it is important to teach them early that not everyone is for them. While having a trusting nature can be admirable, it is not always the safest option. Teach your children to proceed with caution in relationships, be able to identify inappropriate behavior as well as ulterior motives, and to report inappropriate behavior to a trusted and safe adult.
4. Discuss Boundaries
Empower your children to set their own boundaries.
Teaching children that they have bodily autonomy is vital—that they can choose when and in what situations they want to be touched. We know it might be disheartening if a relative doesn’t get a hug and a kiss at the holidays, but teaching children that they don’t owe any kind of physical touch to anyone can go a long way.
Forcing children to hug people they don’t want to communicates to the child that they don’t get to choose when they are touched. We learn a lot of lessons when we are young, and if coercion, manipulation, shame, or even bribery is used with your child when someone wants a hug when they’re younger, they are more likely to think that is acceptable behavior when they are older.
When we teach our children that they are allowed to say ‘no’ and that their ‘no’ matters, we are teaching them that consent matters. We are equipping them to be able to say ‘no’ and mean it later down the line in a possibly harmful situation, or even to listen to someone else’s ‘no.’
5. Be Bold with the Truth
Not every aged child needs to know the ins and outs of human trafficking to be safe, but once your child is old and mature enough, share the facts with them. Have an open and honest conversation about what trafficking is and how it affects your community and them individually.
Click here to receive our Online Child Exploitation Infographic to assist you with this conversation. Download and go over it with your child to ensure safety, understanding, and healthy communication.
We want to protect our children, and that starts with healthy and communicative relationships to equip them with the truth. Be that person for a child in your life today.