Safeguarding against human trafficking in the digital age

May 7, 2024

Virtual spaces have become more important than ever. Technology is ubiquitous, and the internet is woven into the fabric of our daily life.  

The internet, while a powerful tool for learning and communication, can also be used as a tool for exploitation. The reality is, traffickers will hang out wherever vulnerable people are, whether those places are virtual or physical. Human traffickers have become adept at using online platforms, including social media, chat rooms, online marketplaces, and gaming sites, to identify and recruit potential victims.  

Online recruitment for sex and labour trafficking has existed for as long as there’s been widespread access to the internet. It is only becoming more prevalent as technology continues to evolve and play a bigger role in our day-to-day life. According to a 2020 report by Polaris, reports of recruitment on Facebook increased by 125% over the previous year, and by 95% on Instagram.  

Young people are often more willing to freely engage with someone they don’t know online as opposed to a stranger they encounter in-person. Chatting with someone through a screen feels more disconnected and distant, although that doesn’t mean the interaction is safer.  

It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to discussing heavy topics like exploitation and human trafficking. In this blog post we’ll share some online safety tips and additional resources about discussing online safety and exploitation with your children.

Starting the conversation

As soon as a child is old enough to be online or have a phone, they are old enough to learn about online safety. Before you begin this conversation with your children, keep in mind that this is not a one-time talk. It’s crucial to keep lines of communication open and maintain an ongoing discussion about staying safe online with your child. Establishing trust and maintaining open communication channels enables children to feel comfortable sharing their online experiences and seeking help when needed.

The online world is constantly changing. Make it a priority to familiarize yourself with the social media platforms, online games, and other websites or apps that are popular with your kids and their friend groups.  

Key tips

Additional resources

Topics like trafficking and exploitation can be difficult to broach, but there are resources to support these conversations. The Prevention Project is a collection of resources created by Ally Global Foundation and Exploitation Education Institute. It provides 100% free, light-hearted, age-appropriate content aimed at educating young people about staying safe online. These resources can be used by parents to discuss topics such as online safety, grooming, and exploitation at home with their children, or they can be incorporated into classroom learning by educators.