April 28, 2022

Start the Conversation: Talking with Your Kids About Trafficking

Hannah Blair, Lived Experience Expert

It is so important to include our children in conversations about trafficking. But if you are anything like me, you may not necessarily know how to approach the subject with your kids. We worry about opening the door to that world, fearing that talking with them about things like trafficking is letting them know what’s really out there. But isn’t that the point? An educated child is a protected child. There are different ways of educating children on human trafficking based on their ages.

 Kids between the ages of two and six years old are most likely not able to process explicit conversations concerning trafficking. But parents, and even educators, can go ahead and start helping them comprehend their worth and value. Around this age, kids are beginning to learn how to become more independent with things like potty training and learning how to dress themselves. This is the perfect time to help kids understand the importance of caring for their bodies and what it means to treat them with respect. Children at this age also need to be taught that they can ALWAYS ask for personal space. If another person makes them feel uncomfortable or asks them to do something they feel isn’t right, they need to tell a trusted adult right away. Kathy Bryan, a survivor leader who works with Rebecca Bender Initiative, says, “The truth is human trafficking prevention begins in the cradle. When a child learns and fully understands that they have autonomy over their own body, THAT is one of the biggest preventions we can provide for them.” 

Kids between the ages of seven and twelve years old have more conceptual thinking skills, familiarity with how things work in the world, and skills to better communicate their feelings and express themselves. Because of this, they are also more likely to begin to notice things happening in society that is upsetting, violent, or inappropriate. 

We need to provide our children in this age range a safe place to talk about these things and encourage them to come to us if they have questions or are confused about certain things. 

 At this age, they begin to recognize and comprehend the concept of work. When kids come to visit your workplace or if they begin to ask you questions about your job, be intentional about weaving the idea of forced labor into the conversation. This can possibly open doors to the discussion of exchanging nonconsensual sex for money.

Teens between the ages of thirteen and eighteen are at the prime age for human trafficking, so it is more important than ever to be open with them about this complex issue. While they are better prepared and able to understand, they may not be as willing as you wish with opening up to you about sensitive topics. At this age, teens often begin dating, which is the perfect time to educate them on the importance of their bodies. A lot of parents don’t look forward to talking about sex with their child, but it’s likely that if you wait too long, TV or friends may beat you to the punch. According to the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, “As many as 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation each year in the United States.” In today’s time, the average age a child is roped into a life of sex trafficking is 12 to 14 years old. Because of that, it is so important that we educate our children at this age on prevention tactics and red flags to look for in trafficking.

These days, younger and younger children have access to tablets, cell phones, and computers. At any age, it is important for us to also talk to our children about social media. We should seize every opportunity available to talk with our kids about the dangers social media can pose. Disabling their location, being cautious about what they post, and not responding to strangers who reach out are good social media safety items to speak with your kids about. 

We realize that opening up to your child about the topic of human trafficking can be hard and intimidating, but it is important for their safety. It may be easier to talk to our kids if we educate ourselves first. The more we know about human trafficking and the possible signs, the more we are able to educate and protect our kids. Prevention is important, and it can be taught at any age, because awareness begins in the cradle.

Start the conversation today and use Reset180’s articles, website, and tools to help guide you in the conversation. 

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