th (2)Are you on any form of social media? There are so many options out there.  There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Tumbler, Google+, and so many more.  The other day I read an interesting newspaper article about sex trafficking and clicked the share button so I could post it on my Facebook page and the share screen that popped up was so long that I had to scroll down the page to see all of the possibilities.  It’s crazy. How many social media networks are needed?

Social media is an extension of school for most teens.  They communicate with friends, share pictures and even send out party invitations on Facebook.  I’ve heard parents say they learn more about their teen on Facebook than in a conversation with them. Like it or not, we’ve become a society that texts, posts, and tweets more than we actually converse. As a result, people become comfortable posting just about anything and everything, especially teens. We don’t stop to ask ourselves, “Who is going to see this?”

For teens, the number of friends or followers on social media is different than the number of friends they have up and down the halls of school.  Some are their close friends while others are friends of a friend that they may or may not have ever had a conversation with, but accepted as friend to increase their numbers.  Seriously? Yes, seriously! Students want to be popular in school and social media is no different.  Unfortunately, being unwise in social media can be very dangerous.

Proverbs 27:12 says,

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

Sex trafficking is far more networked and complicated than most people assume. Pimps are known to surf the social media networks looking for their next acquisition.  They may make up a name and use a false photo to gain access to teens social media pages. Some even hire people to do the task for them.

As horrible as that sounds, there are steps teens and parents can take to make themselves less likely to be a target. It’s no different than making your home a less likely target for a break-in.  You just have to be wise and take precautions. Here are a few steps you can take with regard to social media:

  1. Make yourself aware of the settings on your social media. Make certain the only people looking at your page/tweets are the people you want to see them. Even then, there’s no guarantee someone hasn’t found a back door entry to your page, especially if a friend shares or retweets what you tweeted.  Then it goes to everyone in their network. It can happen that quickly.
  2. Only accept people as friends on social media if you have a face to face relationship with them. Just because you have mutual friends doesn’t make them safe. Traffickers will use any connection they can to become accepted as a friend, so they can start learning your habits and places you frequent.
  3. Never post pictures of yourself or your friends in revealing clothing or bathing suits. You never know who is looking at them. Parents, this includes you posting pictures of your children in bathing suits, because you have no idea who is looking at it.
  4. Never post where you’re going, only post where you’ve been; and only post where you’ve been if it isn’t a weekly, routine destination.  If you post every Thursday night that you’re at the dance studio, you’re giving a pimp a road map to find you. He already has your picture from your page; now he has your destination.
  5. Never post when you’re home alone. I see this all the time.  A teen will post, “Everyone’s gone. I’m bored. Somebody text me.” Or “Hey, I’m flying solo. Anyone wanna hang out?” This is like an engraved invitation for a pimp.
  6. Posting pictures or comments on social media from a smart phone may reveal your location without you being aware of it. You can turn this feature off. If you’re not sure how, contact your cell phone provider to assist you.
  7. You were told as a young child to beware of strangers talking with you or offering you something. The same is true on social media. These people are experts. They know how to lure you away from your comfort zone without you realizing it until it’s too late.

These are just a few steps we can all take to make our children safer and less likely a target. You may have some suggestions of your own.  If so, share them here so we can all play it safe.