COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As the world worked to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, so did predators with dangerous intentions.
If you aren’t paying attention to your child, there’s a chance someone else is.
“Meet the vulnerability before the wrong person does,” advised Lisa Kajr from Lighthouse for Life, a midlands group that aims to educate the public about the realities of sex trafficking. “You have people that are going to be on a device 24/7 monitoring and looking for ways for just one person that’s going to take the bait.”
With the massive move to digital caused by the pandemic, predators have shifted the way they go after potential victims.
“So they’re saying ‘Hey, how can we still make our profit. We can do that by preying on the vulnerabilities of these people who are in isolation, and we can do that through social media. we can connect easily to someone who’s alone in their bedroom at night,’” Kajr said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported 2020 as a record-breaking year for their CyberTipline, where they received over 21.7 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation.
“Prioritize time with your family,” Kajr said. “That’s going to keep them in the house better than anything else. If you see that your child is spending a lot of time on a device, ask questions, what are they doing, monitor it. Make sure that they are using devices in a public location, in the living room, in a common area, maybe not in their bedroom in the middle of the night.”
Kajr says, as a community, we have to step up, put judgment aside and step in to help when we can.
“We don’t know their story, and even if their story is that they got in a fight and they’re being independent and rebellious and they want to leave, they still all of a sudden are becoming at risk for becoming contacted and recruited by the wrong person,” Kajr said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a 97.5% increase in reports from 2019 to 2020 for individuals communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction.