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Family First: Child trafficking concerns amid pandemic

Children are now spending more time online, and officials are warning about child exploitation

HARTFORD, Conn — This week’s Family First takes on a heavy and serious topic: child trafficking and the pandemic.

Tamara Clark, Director of the Connecticut Survivor Program and Love146, an international human rights organization working to end child trafficking says that it’s estimated that 40.3 million individuals are in situations and being victimized by trafficking and exploitation worldwide. Roughly a quarter of that number are children. She emphasizes that this number is an estimation, as trafficking is an underground illegal problem that is underreported and very complex.

You may have noticed an increase in online content on this problem. Perhaps you’ve grown more concerned about it yourself.

“I think it scares people to know that it’s not something just far off somewhere where you don’t have to worry about it, that it is right in front of you, in your neighborhood, it’s online and it’s easier for people to connect with your kids” says Clark.

The internet makes it easier for these connections and relationships to develop, while the pandemic has re-shaped how many of us, including children, spend our time. The FBI issued an alert back in March warning parents, caregivers and educators about the dangers of online sexual exploitation during the pandemic. Stating in part:

“Due to school closings as a result of COVID-19, children will potentially have an increased online presence and/or be in a position that puts them at an inadvertent risk. Due to this newly developing environment, the FBI is seeking to warn parents, educators, caregivers, and children about the dangers of online sexual exploitation and signs of child abuse.”

You can read the full release here

Clark says she is not surprised that parents are expressing growing concern over this issue, especially right now. However, she says sees this as a positive step in the abolition movement.

“It’s a good thing that people are aware and that we are upset about it and we are sharing the information so that we all can join together to do something about it”

She goes on to say that the more informed parents are, the better equipped they’ll be to have important conversations with their children and spot red flags.

“Parents should be looking for if a new older boyfriend of girlfriend pops up.. suddenly.. or there are new hair styles .. new sneakers.. and new material things happening and you’re like where is this coming from? Who is paying for this. Also if they are starting to distance themselves from their usual friends” says Clark.

She also stresses that while the fight is far from over, there is a growing effort to put an end to this problem.

“There is hope. There are more organizations working and helping with this. If we all are so outraged that we get involved together, we can end child trafficking” says Clark.

If you or someone you know is a victim of child trafficking, know that help is available. Please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888

You can also contact Love146 for more information. They have an office in New Haven, CT.

Additional resources include: Connecticut Department of Children and Families: 1-800-842-2288.