State launches new campaign to protect kids from sex trafficking

By Margaret Kavanagh , Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, October 04, 2013, 6:54 AM EDT

Children recruited for human sex trafficking is a problem happening right now and state leaders want you to do more to protect your kids.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has launched a new campaign called “From Instant Message to Instant Nightmare” to raise awareness about human trafficking and help parents protect their kids from online sex traffickers.

The campaign features pictures of children with messages intended to encourage parents to talk to their kids about human sex trafficking.

The warnings are going up on billboards, bus shelters, and in malls throughout the state telling parents that sex traffickers could be using the internet to recruit their children. "Predators are looking for young victims.  There is a demand in the sex trafficking to have sex with these children. They are going to use social media, the APS on the smart phones and different ways to lure the children,” said Tomas Lares, Chairman for the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force.

Lares said too many children are being lured in our community. "The victims have been from the inner city, from the suburbs, they’ve been every nationality and the traffickers don’t discriminate.”

According to the State Attorney, Florida ranks third when it comes to the number of calls of human trafficking abuse.  Right now they estimate there are 27 million people enslaved around the world.

The Attorney General has advice for parents to protect their children from human traffickers online:

  • Talk to your children about sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Describe human trafficking as modern-day slavery, where people are captured and treated inhumanely. Awareness is the first step in preventing it.
  • Know your child’s screen names and passwords, even if you have your child write them down and put them in a sealed envelope. If anything happens, you will be able to access your child’s accounts to trace who he or she has been communicating with.
  • Use the parental control settings on your computer to check the Internet history. Look for warning signs in your children, such as: mood swings and anxiety; new friends who are significantly older; and new gifts, pre-paid credit cards, clothes or cell phones that you did not purchase.
  • Let your children know that they can talk to you, or a trusted adult, about anything that makes them uncomfortable.