Apps & Social Media
We need to educate ourselves and teach our children that they are potentially being hunted, lured, coerced, tricked, and manipulated into prostitution, which is sex trafficking. Social media and apps are a great way for traffickers to get an introduction to our children then prey on them to be potential victims and lifetime modern day slaves. We need to teach kids to be suspicious and look for signs of grooming. We need to remember and teach kids that what is being posted online indicates the vulnerability of their emotional state and the environment of their home life. Your kids would not normally be exposed to traffickers at this level, but the traffickers are using social media and apps to go after average American children. They are intentional in how they groom their victims, building a friendship of trust - usually before any signs are given that they long to exploit them. Traffickers and predators have a lot at stake, most of these professional recruiters are willing to take the time to instill trust and loyalty because of the payoff in the end and have a slave for life, and make millions doing it.
Protect Yourself and Your Children
Social media and apps are a great way for traffickers to get an introduction to our children. From there, they can then prey on them as potential victims with the intent to learn them into trafficking as modern-day slaves. We need to teach children to be suspicious of strangers online and to look for signs of grooming.
They want to take pictures of you!
Kik and Snapchat are messaging apps that lets users message friends and strangers with videos, photos, sketches, and gifs from anyone. Snapchat is famous for their ‘disappearing’ photos, although screenshots can be taken. Traffickers actually have technology that scans snapchat and collects inappropriate pictures before they are deleted. Traffickers use these images to blackmail young kids into doing what they want to keep silent, often from parents. Snapchat states, “Keep your clothes on!” And yet Snapchat creates forums for predators. Police are concerned because there are no ways to track these predators who hide behind fake profiles, making these predators invisible.
Other popular social media apps that allow private messaging and access to strangers include: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Slack, Cryptocat, Tik Tok, Tumblr, Line, YouTube, Telegram, Look, Wire, Vsco, Bigo Live, IMVU, Houseparty, Viber, Signal, KakaoTalk, Ethan, and many others.
They want to meet you!
Hooking Up with Strangers
Omegle is a website that connects people to unknown individuals. Their tagline is “Talk to Strangers” and hooks you up with someone at random to chat with, share videos, messages, and photos. Omegle states on their homepage, “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.” And yet, the creators don’t do anything else to stop providing a median between children and predators.
Omegle, among other apps, also contains geolocation and can reveal the whereabouts of the user. This aspect creates the predator the ability to find the child after the initial contact, including where they live and visit most often. Other chat room and live streaming apps that connect you to anonymous strangers include: Qeep, BeeTalk, FunPokes, Hitwe, Skout, Mico, Reddit, Stranger By Brainsoft, Yubo, Live.me, YouNow, Blendr, RandoChat, Rooit, Chatous, ASK.FM, HOLLA, TinyChat, Monkey, Fruzo, FaceFlow, Chatroulette, iMeetzu, ChatRad, Wakie, and others.
They want to find you!
Location Based Apps
Tinder is a popular location based social app. Used for dating and hookups, it allows users to chat within 10 miles of their location. It allows you to chat with those located around you, look at your bios, and links to their Instagram and Spotify account. Other hookup apps that connect you to anonymous strangers through location include: DOWN Dating, Google Hangouts, WeChat, Casualx, Pure, Feeld, Tonight, happn, Bumble, MeetMe, Meowchat, Grindr, Scruff, Once, Whiplr, and many others. There are so many apps out there that can be potentially damaging to your child, it isn’t deleting all apps that will protect your child, but education that their safety relies on their awareness of what is happening around them and that they might be targeted.
They want dirt on you!
Blackmail and Sextortion
An Example from Whisper
Whisper “is the best place to discover secrets around you.” Whisper is one of the largest online communities where people anonymously share real thoughts and feelings. You can see others secret thoughts and posts, who are in your area. As I write this, the most popular tag of teenagers on Whisper is “My Parents Cut Me Off Financially For Good.” This post to the was a recent shared secret. How vulnerable do you think this young girl is to be approached by a trafficker to make some money? He will lure her in with the hopes for money in the beginning and then own her, once he has traumatized her through torture and rape, as the victim usually complies, he will control her. She has no idea that she is an easy target for traffickers.
In response to the young girls post above about being cut off from her parents, this post was on the same thread. Targeting vulnerable youths by seeing what they post and responding to them is common, as a spotter or trafficker sees an opportunity to acquire victims who are posting and viewing the post. Sadly, these anonymous social networks are plentiful online and used by predators.
Others app to be weary of include: Yik Yak Generator, After School, Anomo, Psst! Anonymous, Tellonym, and others.