How can I protect my teen? – Prevention strategies are your best defense!
You may think that your teen is safe, but traffickers are recruiting teens at public places like shopping malls or even schools…or coming into your own home through the internet on sites like Facebook. Watch the video below to learn how it happens to average teenagers.
During the scouting phase
- Has your teen received any strange friend requests on Facebook?
- Has your teen received messages through text or twitter asking them to meet someone they or you don’t know or for secretive meetings?
- Does your teen suddenly have a new “friend,” especially one several years older, with whom they spend all their free time?
- Does your teen keep in touch with their old friends?
- Is your teen avoiding family time or family events?
- Is your teen developing a negative attitude toward family, school, friends, or authorities?
During the manipulating phase
- Has your teen brought home expensive gifts for no reason?
- Does your teen have unexplained money?
- Is your teen staying out later than usual?
- Does your teen have unexplained absences from home or school?
- Is your teen participating in risky behaviors such as drugs or alcohol?
- Has your teen been involved in illegal activities such as vandalism or theft?
- Is your teen always checking in with their new “friend?”
During the trapping phase
- Does your teen have unexplained injuries?
- Is your teen afraid to break up or end the relationship with her “friend?”
- Is your teen afraid to bring up certain subjects because their “friend” will get mad?
- Is your teen becoming more and more withdrawn?
Keep computers and laptops in a common room.
- Monitor children and teen online activity by keeping computers, tablets, and video game systems in spaces where activity can be observed by family members.
Ask kids to “check–in” phones and tablets at night.
- Because at-risk texting often takes place after kids have gone to their rooms for the evening, set up a “check-in” station where children and teens can store phones, iPods, and tablets before going to bed in the evening. Permit kids to pick up electronics again in the morning.
- Use a traditional alarm clock to wake your kids, not their phones.
Install parental controls.
- Parental monitoring apps are offered by internet providers to monitor your kid’s online activity and cellphone text conversations. These apps can also block undesirable sites completely.
- Keep a list of your kid’s user name and passwords for each of their social media accounts.
- Ask them to “friend you” and occasionally post to their sight so that threatening individuals will see their sight being monitored.
Monitor phone and texting records.
- Check your child or teen’s phone records for unknown phone numbers and the number of received texts versus deleted texts. This can be done from their phone or online.
- Install apps on smartphones that you monitor their browsing and block certain content.
Track your kid’s location through the cell phone.
- Consider using an option offered by the phone services to track your teen’s movements.
- Install apps that allow you to find their smartphones from your electronic devices.
Promote safe social media posting behavior.
- Talk to your teen about the online dangers:
- Posting picture of themselves
- Providing identifying information
- “Friending” people that that don’t know personally
- Arranging a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online
Promote a positive environment at home.
- Kids want to feel that they are respected and loved
- Help build a positive self-image in your child or teen
- Take time to talk to children and teens about what happens during their day
- Keep the lines of communication open – JUST ASK!
Look for at-risk warning signs.
- Signs that a teen may be involved with traffickers include:
- withdrawing from family activities
- change in friends
- spending time with “suspicious” individuals
- staying out later than usual
- unexplained absences from home
- unexplained access to money and/or possessions
- beginning or increasing alcohol and/or drug use
Start by lending a listening ear
- Tell your teen that you care and they are loved.
- Tell your teen that you are willing to listen.
- Give your teen time to share what’s bothering them. Don’t force the issue, but be persistent.
- Never blame your teen for what is happening.
Questions to start a discussion with your teen. Remember, don’t force the issue, but be kindly persistent.
1) What are you doing with your free time after school and on weekends?
2) Who do you spend your free time with?
3) Are you receiving strange friend requests on Facebook?
4) Are you receiving messages through text or Twitter asking you to meet someone you don’t know?
5) Does your “friend” keep you away from our family and old friends?
6) Did your “friend” ask you to keep your friendship a secret?
7) Do you feel like you have to spend all of your free time with this “friend”?
8) Is your “friend” several years older than you?
9) Has your “friend” bought you expensive gifts for no reason?
10) Does your “friend” try to give you drugs or alcohol?
11) Does your “friend” try to get you to participate in illegal activities such as vandalism or theft?
12) Has your “friend” ever asked you to be sexually active with them or another person in exchange for money, clothes, or something else you wanted?
13) Do you feel like you always have to check-in with your “friend?”
14) Are you afraid to make your own decisions?
15) Has your “friend” ever hit, kicked, shoved, or hurt you?
16) Has your “friend” threatened to hurt you if you try to leave?
17) Are you afraid to break up or end the relationship with your “friend?”
18) Are you afraid to bring up certain subjects because your “friend” will get mad?
19) Is the physical or emotional abuse getting worse?
Let your teen know they are not alone and there are people who can help. Let your teen know that their information is confidential and they will be safe.
- Polaris hotline 1.888.373.7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)
- Police 703-246-4006
- Email: FCPDHumanTrafficking@fairfaxcounty.gov
- See the support groups services under Resources tab
Help your teen after intervention and during recovery:
- Focus on helping your teen’s self-image.
- Give your teen emotional support.
- Point out your teen’s strengths and skills.
- Surround your teen with people that love them and they can trust.
- Help your teen envision a better, happier life.
- Emphasize that your teen deserves a life that is free from exploitation and violence.