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Social Media Used for Sex Exploitation

Hope Weekly 7-2-12

social media

As we celebrate Independence Day this week, I am struck by the number of stories hitting the news about slaves being freed, specifically young girls and boys who are being sexually exploited against their will. Turns out that a couple of young, teenage girls in Canada were recently arrested for trafficking other teens for sex! (You can read the whole story here: http://bit.ly/MjhGzX).

I am starting to understand how my 15 years of Internet networking experience and my passion for the issue of Human Trafficking are related! I have been a community advocate here in Phoenix for almost four years and all the while anticipated that this would happen. What concerns me the most about this story is that these teen girls, completely comfortable and knowledgable with the use of Internet and social media worked completely on their own to trap and broker young girls to johns (men who hire prostitutes) directly. No adults involved.

One would ask, where are they learning this behavior? We live in a society today that is based on exploitation. Maybe this has always been the case, but the Internet makes it far easier for one to get outside their community and lure in an unsuspecting, unknowing victim to take advantage of. This has been my greatest concern with technology and "the network" expanding as quickly as it has. Being part of/ associated with the organizations that are truly building the Internet, I have had conversations with business professionals that are bragging about the fact that these companies are laying fiber in third world countries, delivering electricity AND the Internet all at once. So, these individuals that have never so much as had an e-mail account now have social media and are "friending" all sorts of people, regardless of whether they know them or not. Frankly, it concerns me.

How do we transition our kids from blurring physical boundaries and emotional boundaries? These are not the same. As a child, I learned boundaries as physical. This is easy to teach. Providing our kids the basic rules for activity on-line is much harder, but is absolutely critical at this point. We need to get today’s adults, all ages, engaged and interested in social media in order to prevent further exploitation. This kind of exploitation is on the rise and will likely get worse before it gets better. The social stakes are a generation of kids that have been exploited due to unsupervised on-line activity and a lack of understanding of emotional boundaries.

Our free market believes in expansionism and profit-seeking, regardless of the costs to society. How are we preparing our children for the explosion of on-line porn? How are we preparing our children for the explosion of social media? How are we preparing our children for what's expected to be exponential growth of on-line access from foreign countries where trading in people is cultural norm? It starts by being prepared ourselves. These technology tools can be used for bad...which is why MANY refuse to use them. Well, these technology tools can be used for good as well! Social media platforms are wonderful for educating, building awareness, sharing the truth (whatever your truth may be).

It is time for MY generation of parents...all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles...to get engaged. It isn’t my objective to invoke fear, but to invoke action. Take our shared values and beliefs, specifically our belief that building a relationship with Christ can be the most fulfilling and gratifying experience of our lives, and bring them online! It is important to love on young people who may be seeking online...young people are prone to attachment and it is important that we engage them now about creating that attachment to God, not others. The difference we make in our “network” can be what keeps a child, my child, your child, your grandchild, from letting the wrong character into their inner circle.


Joyce Vogt