Keeping Your Kids Safe in the Information Age
The Pervasiveness of Social Media Use
Social Media companies can sometimes lull people into a sense of security. With notifications containing buzzwords like “privacy settings update”, it can be easy for the young and old, alike, to feel secure on social media. App developers continue to find new ways for society’s digital immersion. Unfortunately, this means the avenues in which predators gain access to your children continue to grow and evolve.
These days, kids are getting internet-ready mobile devices at earlier ages. Consequently, as we move further into the Information Age, kids are spending more time on mobile devices than ever before. In fact, a report from Common Sense Media found that kids younger than eight consume 35 percent of their media on mobile devices. Many people recognize the benefits of children being tech savvy at younger ages. But the Internet is still a web of unknowns.
Social media is one of the more pervasive forms of media that teens are using. Studies show that 95 percent of teens are online and 80 percent of those teens belong to at least one social media website.
Parental Blind Spots
One obstacle for many parents is that the Internet and social media have many blind spots. New trends and challenges pop into your child’s newsfeeds and timelines every day. Often, parents become aware of dangerous social media challenges when driving their kids to the emergency room. Most young people are impulsive and don’t always understand the huge consequences their choices may carry.
In addition to dangerous challenges, parents must talk to their children about internet predators. One recent example of predators in blind spots is the app Musical.ly. In the summer of 2017, a Facebook post of a father warning other parents about a predator asking his seven-year-old daughter for nudes spread like wildfire across the social media platform. The parents believed that the app would serve as a way for their child to communicate with cousins or other friends. However, the app’s default setting is an open platform. The open platform allows for users all over the world to see videos posted by anyone. Thankfully, the young girl in this story was brave enough to tell her parents about the predatory user at the other end of her internet connection.
The age requirement for Musical.Ly is 13. However, many parents miss or ignore the age restrictions of social media. Predators can easily access your kids simply by sending a message to that device you got your child as a birthday present. Because of this, it is important for parents to remain vigilant.
Challenges of Parenting Teens in the Information Age
Unfortunately, meeting a social media age requirement doesn’t mean that they have aged out of danger. The teen years present a unique set of social media challenges for parents. As little ones grow, parents and guardians have to walk a delicate balance. We often have to choose between protecting our children while also respecting their growing need for privacy. Between the rise of cyberbullying and human traffickers using social media to contact teenagers, internet dangers presented to vulnerable teens are endless.
Traffickers were once limited to luring victims off the street. But now, they can access thousands of teens using apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Another source of teens is the rise of messaging apps like Snapchat where messages disappear. Additionally, traffickers can sometimes target their young victims on gaming consoles.
Most people use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family all over the world. Sadly, the app is also a favorite of human traffickers. Young girls with difficult lives, like those in foster care, are particularly vulnerable to being sold in the sex trade. Girls looking for love online or dating a person they met online are also at-risk for being trafficked. Social media has become an entry point for traffickers to manipulate teens into a forced labor situation.
Parents also need to realize that the schemes don’t end at emotional manipulation. Victims are tricked into meeting up with their predators with the promise of modeling jobs or other financially lucrative promises. The United Nations International Labour Organization estimates that nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking—a $150 billion industry that makes most of its money online. As more teens aspiring to become public figures use social media platforms like Instagram to book gigs, it’s easy for online predators to lure their victims in with the promise of large sums of money.
How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
At The Carlson Law Firm, we represent victims of sex trafficking. If you or someone you love was lured into forced labor, our firm can help you hold the people who did this to you accountable. You have the right to civil remedies for the pain caused to you. Contact The Carlson Law Firm today for a free consultation. We are available 24/7 and ready to help you.
- Written by Kazia Conway