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Online luring

Fifty-nine per cent of girls say they have a friend who has done things online that were not safe. The more girls and their parents know about the risks, the better equipped they are to protect themselves.1  

We sometimes hear "I don't need to worry about my child, they spend all their time in their room." It can be easy to have a false sense of security when a child spends lots of time at home, but that child could be interacting frequently online with people they do not know.

The reality is that traffickers hang out wherever young people are. So it's no wonder they increasingly find victims online, through social media, gaming sites and chat rooms.

Why online luring is increasing

  • It's easy to find personal details – traffickers don't have to ask or fish for information that's already been shared online.
  • It’s easy to develop bonds over social media, chat rooms and gaming sites where people share common interests and concerns such as weight, substance use or issues at home and school.
  • It's easy to identify vulnerabilities when teens share posts or messages about how they hate their bodies or had a fight with their parents.
  • It’s easy for traffickers to create trustworthy profiles. They can be Jane or John, 17 or 47. It's impossible to tell.
  • Online traffickers can control the pace of each relationship and nurture multiple relationships at once.

Online habits: research with teen girls across Canada

We wanted to understand the attitudes and behaviours that put teen girls at risk of sex trafficking in Canada. So in 2018, Covenant House and Ipsos Public Affairs conducted a national research study with girls aged 12 to 16.

Here is what the survey reported:

 

38 per cent said their parents are very aware of their social media activity.

59 per cent shared that they have a friend who has done things online that were not safe.

85 per cent agreed there are probably people online who want to take advantage of them.

The study also showed that as teen girls age, their social media usage increases and they become even less likely to talk to their parents about challenges they are experiencing, both online and offline. Both of these factors increase their risk of being lured into sex trafficking.

Findings from this study also revealed some good news: the more teens know about the risks of sex trafficking and the more their parents are aware of their social media activity, the less often they engage in risky behaviour. Click here to learn more about this study with teen girls.

Here are some key online safety tips that can help with awareness and security in the digital environment.

  1. Covenant House Toronto, & Ipsos Public Affairs. (2018). A National Sex Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Study