JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Unfortunately, child human trafficking is on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s because kids are at home, on devices more with online schoolwork and playing games. It can put a proverbial target on their back.
According to data from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, reports of online child sexual exploitation doubled in 2020.
Cammy Bowker is the CEO and founder of Global Education Philanthropists, a nonprofit that works to prevent human trafficking worldwide. She said online predators target anyone, anywhere.
“But, know who they’re talking to online. We’ve helped with some undercover stings, and these kids are so young. As young as seven, getting groomed on roadblocks and Fortnite,” Bowker said. “Again, it doesn’t matter if it’s Arkansas or Seattle; what I would just suggest in any city is to start having conversations.”
Bowker added that prevention beats rescue 100 percent of the time. What she means by that is to talk to your kids about what to watch out for online.
“Think about it, if you were a predator, if you wanted to get to a kid, you’d go where they’re hanging out,” said Bowker. “That’s where the predators are hanging out, so that’s my advice is to know where they’re at online, who they’re talking to.”
Officials said any online site, game, or app with a chat feature puts children at risk.
This advice is handy with the upcoming Super Bowl game.
According to Homeland Security numbers, human trafficking can surge around such large events such as the Super Bowl.
Bowker said that this year, 500 online ads have already been identified.
For safety tips, click here.
To report suspected human trafficking crimes or to get help from law enforcement, Call toll-free (24/7) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 1-866-347-2423 to report sexually exploited or abused minors.
If a child is in urgent need of assistance, contact law enforcement or child protective services to report abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a child. Contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline to speak to professional crisis counselors who can connect a caller with a local number to report abuse:1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
You can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Report incidents at http://www.cybertipline.org.
To learn about services for victims
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families Services, click here.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Blue Campaign, Victim Assistance Resources, click here.
U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, Funded Service Providers List, click here.