Technology remains at the top of the list of the most powerful tools in the 21st century. As an older sister, I recognize the importance of educating your siblings about social media. Parents must talk to their children from a young age on how they should safely utilize social media rather than imposing strict measures upon them, which will most likely result in sneaky and secretive children.
To start, it is important to realize that children and teenagers are fairly easy targets for human traffickers who are searching for their next victim online. The Office of Communications, commonly known as OFCOM, is a government-approved regulatory and competition authority for broadcasting and telecommunications in the United Kingdom. The 2018 OFCOM's Children Use and Attitudes Report found that children create social media profiles before they reach the minimum age requirement for a majority of social media platforms. The minimum age requirement is thirteen years old; however,“12% of nine-year-olds, 21% of ten-year-olds, and 34% of eleven-year-olds have a social media profile”(OFCOM 17).
Children are at an increased vulnerability for being in contact with traffickers since “they have minimal guidance on social media” (Latonero). Children are oblivious to who they should befriend online and are unaware that their personal information may fall into the hands of an individual with bad intentions. “Still, teenagers are one of the most active individuals on social media platforms. 45% of 17-year-olds said they are online almost constantly and 97% claimed that they use a social media platform such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat”(BBC News).
A 17-year-old girl named Minnie from the United Kingdom discussed an incident involving her friend, which occurred in 2018. Minnie recalls how her friend “was planning to stay with a man [that] she had met online”(OFCOM 12). Minnie raised concerns after looking at the man’s social media profile and informed her parents, which luckily prevented any misfortune from occurring. Minnie’s friend may have been a victim of catfishing, a common technique used by traffickers. “Catfishing is the use of impersonating a fake identity with the purpose of deception”(Latonero).
Personally, I have come across several social media accounts that are constructed in a deceptive manner. These accounts may steal another individual’s photos from the internet and may also go to the extent of stalking their target’s hobbies with the desire of sparking a conversation with someone. For the sake of our children, or in my case younger siblings, we need to constantly advocate for the importance of implementing a safe environment for children online in society. Also, we must build a safe environment for our children at home.
God forbid, your child leaves your home and you realize they are in danger, as they went to meet a stranger that they were talking to online. No one deserves to go through this pain; hence, we must be willing to create a change within our home before we attempt to create a change within the world. Be kind, communicate, listen, and most importantly tell your children that you will always be there for them.
Latonero, Mark. “Human Trafficking Online: The Role of Social Networking Sites and Online Classifieds.” ResearchGate, www.researchgate.net/publication/255726507_Human_Trafficking_Online_The_Role_of_Social_Networking_Sites_and_Online_Classifieds. Accessed 20 August 2020.
OFCOM. “Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2018.” PDF File, https://www.ofcom.org.uk/data/assets/pdf_file/0024/134907/children-and-parents-media-use-and-attitudes-2018.pdf. Accessed 20 August 2020.
BBC, News. “Under-Age Social Media Use 'on the Rise.” BBC, 29 Nov. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/technology-42153694. Accessed 20 August 2020.