The internet and social media have changed the way sex traffickers operate. I know what you’re thinking. “It would never happen to me, I’m really careful.” Abusers will often target children who've expressed vulnerability online, mainly through sharing thoughts and feelings in social media posts and livestreams, which many children are likely to be doing, especially during lockdowns. Think about this for a second. What’s stopping a predator from using photos of a young girl your age to create a fake profile and try to connect with all of the students at a local school? And, since girls tend to post about everything going on in their lives, predators search/wait for the perfect opportunity to befriend and groom girls online. Girls tend to reveal more about themselves, their locations, how they are feeling, and who they are with on a regular basis. Yes, it’s that easy! Girls fall victim to fake profiles lurking in their personal business more often than you might think.
Every post, comment, like and follow affects your communication with others online. By sharing personal information, consider social media posts as an advertisement for anyone to see. Your digital footprint can put your job or college application in the trash faster than you can text your BFF. Today, you might not be worried about college or job acceptance and depending on your age, this may seem a little dramatic and futuristic, but know that everything you put online is there to stay. Do overs don’t count, HOWEVER you can stay safe & maintain a positive online footprint with a few easy habits.
The popular trend to list your school, sports, hobbies, BFF’s, neighborhood and grade level in your Instagram bio are exactly what predators are looking for. Think about it…that’s a LOT of info to give to the world. Let’s end the lost list bios and keep your private info just for your BFF’s eyes only. Changing your Insta bio might not be a popular choice, but you could help create a new trend of short bios without personal information. That would be pretty awesome. Go ahead, try it!
In settings, ensure you’ve checked New Follow Requests to be accepted only with permission. Only accept followers you personally know. If you haven’t met them in person, click DENY. I do this all the time…it’s not lame, it’s smart!
Do not participate or ask to be rated. You don’t need to be rated, you’re already awesome. Confident girls who know their self-worth never need anyone else to validate who they are. Ratings are just another way to spread hate, bullying and drama. Who needs the extra stress? Just be kind when you comment on friends pics as you support each other online and most importantly, offline and in person.
Turn off geo-tagging and never share locations when you post! Scenario: You’re out with your friends and you stop at Starbucks and decide to post a pic. I know it might be hard but wait until you get home to share the epic pics, but adopting this habit keeps predators from determining your location. Predators are masters at locating girls based on their location because they felt the need to post that “in the moment” pic.
In case you didn’t know, Human Trafficking is on the rise. My younger self had no idea just how dangerous and vulnerable we as girls are while we are online. Unfortunately, I have experienced being approached by an online predator with the intent to traffic. The police were involved and my ordeal has inspired me to educate and empower girls to be safe online. I was lucky and did not become a victim. With this in mind, I decided to take my mentorship to young girls and extend it beyond my normal GIRL TALK empowerment.
We all love social media, but don’t allow it to consume you! The best way to share those lasting moments are to really be in the moment as we create lasting memories with our friends. Remember, those last way longer than the 1.5 seconds others spend peeking at your post as they scroll through their feed!